The work stands in contrast to much of the residential development in metro Atlanta, especially on the Westside and near the Beltline. New construction typically targets middle and upper-income residents, as the region’s population grew by 63,000 people in the 12-month period ending in April, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.
The supply of affordable housing has not kept pace. Metro Atlanta has a shortage of 24,267 homes for households at 30% of the average median income or less, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Statewide, Georgia has a shortage of about 204,000 rental homes for families whose income falls below the current poverty level of $18,850, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition.
The Westside Future Fund’s largest corporate investors are Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, Chick-Fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Home Depot and Truist Financial. Cox owns The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Its public-sector partners for the project, called Home on the Westside, are Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Invest Atlanta and the Atlanta Housing Authority.
The two primary tenants of Mercedes-Benz Stadium are the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United, both owned by Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank. Blank’s foundation supports Westside affordable-housing initiatives.
An affordable housing structure is under construction, located at 395 James P. Brawley Drive NW, in Atlanta's English Avenue community, Wednesday, August 26, 2020. The Westside Future Fund is adding affordable houses on Atlanta's Westside. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
More work is in the pipeline after the current construction phase is completed, as the fund owns a total of 377 properties, both detached homes and apartments. The fund hopes to produce 800 housing units by 2025, both for rental and purchase, offered at 60% of the average median income or less.
The fund has partnered with the Atlanta Housing Authority’s voucher program to maintain its new housing at affordable levels.
The new housing will be a combination of rental units and homes for sale and will be offered to residents of mixed income levels. Advocates hope there will be strong purchase demand since high home ownership rates can stabilize a community, said John Ahmann, the fund’s CEO.
In stable neighborhoods, it’s typical for a majority of residents to own their own homes, he said. But in these neighborhoods, the home ownership rate is around 8%.
“We’d love to have people move in who work at the Atlanta University Center or in the local schools,” he said. “We’d love to have people come back who graduated from Booker T. Washington High School.”
Bottoms, in a statement, said the project “shows what we can do when public and private partners collaborate on sustainable change.” She campaigned on a goal of creating a $1 billion fund for affordable housing.
The fund isn’t the only group trying to bolster the supply of affordable homes in these neighborhoods. Quest Communities and OaksATL are both active developers of affordable housing on the Westside.
The area desperately needs more affordable housing and the fund’s strategy of replacing vacant and blighted properties with new construction is an effective tool, said Althea Broughton, an attorney at Arnall Golden Gregory who represents the fund on some matters though nothing directly tied to this project.
“We should have an all-hands-on-deck approach to this issue,” said Broughton, who works on affordable-housing developments throughout the Southeast. “There’s no one-size-fits-all methodology and no silver bullet.”
The fund has raised $25 million for the project and hopes to raise another $25 million, Ahmann said. The current project is focused exclusively on building homes and not other assets like community centers or commercial buildings, he said.