Monday morning, U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge visited Atlanta as she toured Herndon Square as the City of Atlanta continues to promote their affordable housing initiatives. Herndon Square boasts 586 money rental unites, of which 52% are affordable, 97 senior rental units, and 32 town homes for sale, of which 21% are affordable.

The Herndon Square plan is developed by a partnership with Hunt Companies/Oakwood Development Corporation, with additional partnerships by HUD, City of Atlanta, Westside Future Fund, Invest Atlanta, Department of Community Affairs and Georgia Tech.

In January 2020, construction began on Herndon Square, which hired workers through Westside Works and the workers received OSHA training and further skills development.

“Herndon Square is a rebuild of the historic Herndon Homes slated to provide over 600 new units to seniors and families, and is the perfect example of building back better,” said Eugene E. Jones, CEO of Atlanta Housing.

Fudge was in Atlanta promoting President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan, which emphasizes investments in housing construction and rehabilitation, economic development, and community revitalization. President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan is in two the form of two bills, one a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that would rebuild and repair traditional infrastructure in the U.S., and a broad $3.5 trillion measure that could pass with only the support of Democrats, via budget reconciliation.

“You know one of the reasons that Black home ownership is the same as it was for a percentage as compared to white home ownership as it was in 1968, is because we don’t have down payment assistance,” Fudge said. “We can change that. In this HUD, we’re given down payment assistance so that you can start with equity in your house. In this HUD, we are neutralizing student loan debt. Who has student loan debt? Black, Brown and poor people.  We’re changing that, so that your debt your student loan debt will not count so heavily against you and you’re going to get credit.

We’re starting to give small dollar loans. You know what it is like if you have neighborhoods that have been red-lined for so long, you can go and buy a house for 10 or $20,000 but the banks won’t loan you the money to fix it. We’re changing that and we’re going to rebuild our neighborhoods and our communities.”

Fudge was joined by Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senator Jon Ossoff, Senator Reverend Raphael G. Warnock, U.S. Representative Nikema Williams, Dean of the Georgia Legislature and newly-minted ambassador of the Dominican Republic, State Rep. Calvin Smyre and Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis.

“Housing is dignity. Housing is absolutely necessary, critical infrastructure,” Senator Warnock explained. “And so I’m proud to stand aside leaders from our state who have been in the fight to ensure a pathway to safe, stable and affordable housing for all Georgians, the pathway to housing should be fair and equitable for everyone, and access to affordable housing is the infrastructure, people in our communities need to elevate families into the working class and the middle class. It is the foundation that helps people support their families and contribute to their economies.”

The Mayor’s office has made an ambitious pledge to put $1 billion toward affordable housing and to date, the City controls nearly $500 million in private and public funding – which is half-way to that billion-dollar goal. The City also is on track to meet its 8-year goal of providing 20,000 affordable housing units by 2026, according to a release.

“To achieve our goal, we must ensure that housing is developed at all price points in the city and Atlanta Housing’s Herndon Square is an example of our commitment,” said Mayor Bottoms. “It is an honor to host Secretary Fudge and members of Congress to discuss the importance of housing rehabilitation and community revitalization as we build back better, together.”

“The work that we’re doing in Congress right now to advance meaningful investments in affordable housing will have a real impact, a positive impact on the daily lives of so many Georgians,” said Senator Ossoff. “Far too many Georgians lay awake at night worrying whether they’ll be able to make the rent because of housing shortages, and the far too many of our fellow Georgians who lack secure access to housing and find themselves on housed, or unstably housed.”

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge, center, speaks to reporters at Herndon Square on Monday, September 27, 2021. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...