Atlanta wins $30 million federal housing grant

Atlanta has been selected out of dozens of American cities to receive a $30 million federal housing grant, funds that Mayor Kasim Reed says will boost revitalization efforts on the city’s struggling Westside.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and Congressman John Lewis traveled to Atlanta Monday to confirm the city is one of five that will receive the Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant. The initiative is part of a White House-led effort to improve communities through affordable mixed-income housing, youth services and partnerships with schools and private entities. Other cities to receive roughly $30 million each include Memphis, Tenn., Milwaukee, Wis., Sacramento, Calif., and Kansas City, Mo.

The award comes five years after Atlanta received a $250,000 federal grant to study challenges in the area around Vine City, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center. Using those funds, the city and the Atlanta Housing Authority worked with local nonprofits and residents to develop revitalization goals, according to a spokeswoman with Reed’s office. The entities used those findings in its application to HUD.

“This represents our belief that we can collaborate with you to make a difference in this University Choice Neighborhood area,” said Castro, who with Lewis and Reed met with a small group of seniors Monday. “… It’s not just about housing. It’s also about ensuring that we lift up overall quality of life, that there are educational opportunities, there is access to transit, that there is a safe neighborhood, that there are investments that define prosperity.”

Lewis said he attended the event because of his love for the Atlanta University Center neighborhood, where he moved in 1963 to work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

“I love to see people happy,” he said. “When you have good and great neighborhoods, when you have a clean living space, you can be happy.”

Atlanta was named a finalist for the Choice grant last year, but lost out in the final rounds. Castro said part of why the city was chosen now is because of its coordination with private entities and nonprofits.

Reed has pledged to spur investment in Westside communities in the wake of an Atlanta Falcons stadium now under construction. Part of that includes overhauling the Martin Luther King Corridor that runs through those neighborhoods.

Reed said he’ll yield to the AHA and local experts to determine how the funds will be spent, but noted, “This is the community where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. grew up. We can’t have a $1.5 billion new stadium …and then have a neighborhood that has the Atlanta University schools in disrepair.”

The event was held at the Oasis at Scholar’s Landing, an assisted living facility developed through the AHA.

Joy Fitzgerald, AHA’s executive director, said the agency will immediately begin providing social services and plans to develop two additional phases of multi-family housing. About $18 million of the grant dollars are expected to fund housing development, $4.5 million will pay for support services, $4.5 million will go to neighborhood initiatives and the rest to administrative costs, according to Reed’s office.