Atlanta Housing OK’s creation of nonprofit to build social housing

The Atlanta Housing Authority unveiled a new logo and branding for the agency on May 18, 2018. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/

The Atlanta Housing Authority unveiled a new logo and branding for the agency on May 18, 2018. J. SCOTT TRUBEY/

The Atlanta Housing Authority’s board of commissioners on Wednesday voted to create a subsidiary nonprofit that will focus on building mixed-income housing that is not reliant on the tax credits used to develop affordable housing.

Joshua Humphries, the senior housing policy advisor for Mayor Andre Dickens, acknowledged to the AHA board that Atlanta is not well positioned to develop its public land. However, he said there’s a lot of properties on city-owned sites that should be under consideration for housing development.

That’s where the Atlanta Urban Development Corporation comes in.

The nonprofit would build “social housing,” a European development model where communities consist of affordable and market-priced housing. These developments overseas generate enough revenue from their market-rate units to maintain the long-term affordability of the other units, Humphries said.

Humphries said the city wants to use that model to create developments where at least 30% of the units would be affordable for a three-person household that earns anywhere between $55,140 to $73,520.

“It’s the best of public housing in the U.S. and the best of private market housing,” Humphries said. “There’s a lot of things that didn’t work about public housing, which is why we’ve seen it go away over the last several decades.”

Humphries said the administration and the nonprofit are looking forward to working with City Council in the next few weeks to identify seed funding. The council will also help the nonprofit identify city-owned sites for development.

During the meeting, Humphries also introduced two of the nonprofit’s seven new board members. The three mayoral appointees are Alan Ferguson Sr., CEO of Atlanta Habitat for Humanity; Ashani O’Mard of Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership; and NAACP Atlanta President Richard Rose.

The other board members include AHA Board Chair Larry Stewart and AHA board members Sarah Kirsch, Rosalind Elliott, Joel Alvarado. The AHA board’s vote OK’d the creation of the nonprofit, and it also approved the creation of the nonprofit’s board.

The nonprofit’s non-voting board members will consist of Mayor Dickens; Invest Atlanta President and CEO Eloisa Klementich; AHA President and CEO Eugene Jones Jr.; and City Council Community Development/Human Services Chair Jason Dozier.

The Atlanta Urban Development Corp. is designed in part to help fulfill the city’s goal of building and preserving 20,000 affordable units by 2026. Atlanta built 2,300 units last year, and 5,400 more units are in the construction pipeline.

O’Mard said the nonprofit will “push the envelope” on how Atlanta reimagines mixed-income neighborhoods citywide. Ferguson said he wants to see more housing that is close to job centers, transit, greenspace, and recreation.

That said, they realize it won’t be easy to develop more housing in today’s market.

“I think everyone involved in development right now is looking at the headwinds of increased construction costs, increased labor costs and increased financing costs,” Ferguson said. “At the same time, you have a diminishing amount or availability of federal funds, state funds, all of those different types of things that have traditional provided subsidy.”