Atlanta Land Trust has become an important asset concerning affordable housing within the Metro Atlanta area. The mission of Atlanta Land Trust is to deliver permanently affordable housing to support inclusive, equitable communities near the Atlanta BeltLine and other targeted areas in the city of Atlanta.
“Atlanta Land Trust is a specific type of non-profit organization,” Amanda Rhein, Executive Director of Atlanta Land Trust said. “We focus on removing land from the real estate market and putting it in community control. Once we acquire the land we focus on things that helps the community.”
Atlanta Land Trust’s vision is to create a livable, equitable and economically viable city where historically marginalized populations and communities of color can access and benefit from opportunities and prosper.
“We can operate anywhere within the city of Atlanta. This includes the BeltLine and the BeltLine planning area,” Rhein said. “That alone covers 45 neighborhoods that touch the BeltLine. Right now, we are focusing on neighborhoods in Southwest Atlanta that is where our focus will remain over the next couple of years.”
Rhein said Atlanta Land Trust will go as far north as Grove Park and as far east as Pittsburgh. Other neighborhoods in their scope of focus are Vine City and Oakland City.
“Condo units have also been placed into the Atlanta Land Trust,” Rhein said. “We’re really wanting to be active in areas where we see a lot of public investment and increasing property value. Basically, all of these things that have unintended consequences of driving up property value resulting in existing residents no longer being able to pay property taxes or afford their rent.”
Community land trusts, such as Atlanta Land Trust, have worked hard for numerous years in efforts to close these homeownership margins. More and more cities are creating community land trusts for the betterment of their neighborhoods across the nation.
“[Community land trusts] were first created in Albany, Ga during the Civil Rights Movement to secure land for Black farmers,” Rhein said. “Over the last 50 years, they have expanded throughout the country. There are currently 250 land trusts in large cities and small neighborhoods across the country. Atlanta Land Trust was originally created in 2009 and since we have been working to determine a model that would be the best fit for the city.”
By keeping housing permanently affordable, a community land trust helps reduce the displacement that can accompany gentrification when property values are climbing, and provides community framework that supports residents and limits their overall exposure to debt that has been proven to sharply reduce the incidence of foreclosure when the economy takes a turn for the worse.
In the Atlanta Land Trust’s process, they must first acquire land and maintain ownership of it permanently, with prospective homeowners entering into long-term renewable leases of the land. Next, the organization supports the residents to attain and sustain homeownership. In return, the homeowner agrees to sell the home at resale-restricted and affordable pricing to another lower-income homebuyer in the future.
“We operate on a dual ownership model. Separating ownership of the house and ownership of the underlying land,” Rhein said. “We retain ownership of the land giving them the right to be on our land. We ask our homeowners that every single time that home is sold, it is sold to another family that is low income.
We have a resale formula which we use to determine the price of where to sell the home in balancing long-term affordability,” she continued. “With the resale formula, homeowners are able to share in some appreciation of the home but can’t sell in market value.”
When the homeowner decides to sell, the resale formula is used to determine the resale value. Atlanta Land Trust uses two different resale formulas. One permits homeowners to realize 25% of the appreciated value of the home and the other uses average income growth to determine how much equity a homeowner can realize. Furthermore, Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest-growing areas in the US, especially during the past year due to COVID-19.
“The vision for the growth of the city of Atlanta was captured by the previous mayoral administration,” Rhein said. “We know the city of Atlanta is poised to capture a lot of growth since more people want to live here. Our task is to accommodate this growth without displacing families.”
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms set a goal to raise $1 billion towards this goal to minimize displacement and streamlining the city’s processes. Atlanta Land Trust has relaunched the organization from being a start-up to scaling it to becoming effective for it to achieve its mission.
“We have a number of projects underway and these projects include scattered-sight single-family homes as well as an initiative in the neighborhood of East Lake,” Rhein said. “There are three larger-scale projects that are currently in pre-development allowing us to get to scale faster. Those three projects are at similar points in their timeline, however, one project we are calling ‘Avenue at Oakland City’ is going to start taking reservations soon.”
Yet another new opportunity for potential homeowners to purchase a townhome courtesy of the Atlanta Land Trust.