Advocates hope for more affordable housing from Integral deal

February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry leaves the Office of the Mayor after a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry leaves the Office of the Mayor after a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

The Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) exists to provide low-income residents with affordable housing.

But for five years, a swath of untouched land has stayed in limbo due to a costly legal dispute with a developer.

That could soon change after the Housing Authority’s board unanimously passed a resolution Thursday in support of a proposed settlement with the Integral Group over the contested land, some of which is in the heart of downtown.

Under the terms of the deal, Atlanta Housing would gain control of a portion of the 81 acres, and Integral would purchase a significant majority of the land for more than $20 million, according to a person familiar with the negotiations who requested anonymity because the deal has not received final approval.

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones speaks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

AHA President Eugene Jones said the city wants to build affordable housing on its portion. Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry said the developers will build a combination of market-rate, workforce, and affordable housing.

It is unclear how many affordable units will be constructed on the land.

But the deal won’t be official until the board receives and ratifies the finalized documents from Jones and the AHA’s attorneys, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) greenlights the agreement.

If the new deal falls through, AHA and Integral would return to court. But AHA board member Robert Highsmith says he’s confident that won’t happen.

“I’m relieved,” Highsmith said. “The trial in this case was upcoming and regardless of the result, it was going to be a distraction from the authority’s mission.”

Integral, Urban Realty Partners and H.J. Russell & Company demolished the public housing projects of Capitol, Carver, Grady, and Harris homes more than two decades ago to build 3,100 housing units on the land.

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February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
February 3, 2022 Atlanta - Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry speaks as Mayor Andre Dickens looks during a press conference at Atlanta City Hall on Thursday, February 3, 2022. Mayor Andre Dickens announced the settlement at City Hall with Integral Group CEO Egbert Perry and the Atlanta Housing Authority President Eugene Jones. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

But the partnership hit a snag in 2013, creating a heated dispute over the remaining undeveloped land between Mayor Kasim Reed and Perry. Their conflict led to a series of lawsuits beginning in 2017.

A settlement proposed in 2020 would’ve surrendered the agency’s control of all the land to Integral for $22 million, and AHA would’ve paid Perry’s $1.8 million legal fees. But the authority board rejected the deal after being told the units would still be too expensive for the agency’s low-income residents.

Housing advocates say they’re optimistic, even though little to nothing is known about the deal itself.

“None of us have seen the details,” said Bill Bolling, founder of Atlanta Regional Housing Forum. He said that at the very least, the deal will let Atlanta housing get back to work.

“It’s been way too long since we’ve seen the production of housing.”