Atlanta to use city-owned land to build affordable housing

City officials at a groundbreaking ceremony for a housing development in Atlanta. AJC File
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City officials at a groundbreaking ceremony for a housing development in Atlanta. AJC File

For the first time, the city of Atlanta is launching a program to take land it owns and convert it into affordable housing.

The initiative to utilize the public land, announced Tuesday, presents an additional tool the city can use to make living in Atlanta more affordable amid rising rents and home prices.

Officials plan to start with four sites — three single-family properties in southwest Atlanta and an apartment building downtown.

The Department of City Planning identified those sites after doing an inventory of publicly owned property that could be suitable for affordable housing. It found that the city, the Beltline, Metro Atlanta Land Bank, Atlanta Housing and Invest Atlanta own a total of 877 acres of land over 490 parcels that could be turned into housing.

“Leveraging public property is a substantial, largely untapped tool that we can utilize as we work to increase affordable and workforce housing in Atlanta,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in a statement. “The activation of public land complements efforts already underway and will help maintain Atlanta’s economic diversity and ensure long-term affordability for our residents.”

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The city is set to work with Invest Atlanta to build an apartment building with other mixed-use space on a vacant, one-acre site across from Atlanta City Hall at 104 Trinity Avenue. Invest Atlanta will identify a developer to tackle the project.

The Land Bank will help build the three single family homes to sell on the southwest Atlanta properties, which will also have accessory dwelling units. The homes will be sold through the community land trust model, in which the Atlanta Land Trust maintains ownership of the land to ensure it stays affordable, while the resident owns the home.

Officials have not yet said exactly how much the homes and apartments could cost, but the city typically defines housing as “affordable” if it is priced for people who make under 60% to 80% of the area’s annual median income, which is $82,700 for a family of four in metro Atlanta.

The Department of City Planning presented the first four properties to the City Council’s community development committee Tuesday. The committee passed ordinances approving their development; they are expected to pass the full Council on Monday.

Next, the city plans to take a closer look at its assets to analyze whether more public property could be used for housing. Bottoms signed an administrative order creating an interagency advisory council to look at the potential uses of additional land.