Decatur Housing Authority sets sights on Swanton Heights rehab

Last week the Decatur Housing Authority formally dedicated the Oakview Walk apartments, 34 units of “affordable” and “work force” housing. But already the DHA is looking ahead to “rehabilitating” the half-century old Swanton Heights across the street from Decatur High School.

On July 15 city commissioners approved the DHA’s issuing multi-family housing bonds in the amount not to exceed $15 million for the acquisition, rehabilitation and operation of Swanton Heights.

Oakview was a “redevelopment,” where the original apartments were razed and completely rebuilt. The rehabilitation of Swanton includes renovating every apartment with the exterior stair towers and unit entrances getting redesigned into a more modern look.

During the rehab Swanton families will move offsite and back on in shifts. Work is expected to start in late September and last 2 to 2½ years.

Swanton has 98 units in 12 residential buildings totaling 101,670 square feet plus a 7,263 square-foot community center covering six acres.

“It is cheaper to rehabilitate [than to redevelop],” said DHA Executive Director Douglas Faust. “But more than that, the challenge is that it’s getting harder to get low income tax credits, so we have to rethink our financial strategy.”

The DHA recently received approval to convert the Swanton property from public housing to Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, though Faust said monthly rents won’t increase.

Total renovation should cost $11,892,111, or about $121,348 per dwelling unit.

With the opening of Oakview the DHA has now redeveloped 346 units over the last decade costing a total $56.2 million. The DHA’s last remaining complex needing a facelift is the 65-unit Spring Pointe apartments, which is market rate and not affordable housing.