DeKalb housing group sells affordable rentals to real estate company

The Housing Development Corporation of DeKalb County sold 72 homes scattered across Decatur, Tucker and Stone Mountain to an Atlanta-based real estate company hoping to convert renters to homeowners

Atlantica Properties bought the homes for $8 million and says it will use its affordable housing program OWN DeKalb to help more renters become homeowners.

“A lot of these neighborhoods around metro Atlanta are so densely populated with renters,” Atlantica Properties co-founder Darion Dunn said. “It’s not good for the stabilization of neighborhoods.”

About 53 percent of all homes in DeKalb are owner-occupied — a rate of homeownership that lags the state by nearly 10 percent, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. Additionally, rent has increased by 57 percent since 2010 particularly in the north DeKalb suburbs outside the Perimeter and along the Ga. 400 corridor. Rents in that area average nearly $1,700 per month.

Residents of the homes were able to purchase their homes in advance of the sale to Atlantica. Four residents elected to purchase their homes prior to the others being sold.

“If someone can’t or doesn’t want to buy a home, we’re going to be their landlord for the remainder of the lease and will transition them to another rental,” Dunn said. “That could also mean extending residents’ leases until they find adequate, affordable housing.”

The Housing Development Corporation of DeKalb (HDC-DeKalb) began buying the homes in 2010 after the economic downturn to avoid blight, vice president of the organization John Corcoran told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Many of the homes are in unincorporated DeKalb with rents between $850 and $1,300 per month.

“The economic downturn caused significant stress in the housing market and many properties in DeKalb and elsewhere were impacted,” Corcoran said.

HDC-DeKalb bought the homes during the downturn “to stabilize neighborhoods and provide decent, safe and sanitary housing” to DeKalb residents, Corcoran said.

As a non-profit under the Housing Authority of DeKalb County, HDC-DeKalb was created in 1988 in response to the county's affordable housing shortage. In addition to the 76 homes it rents, the non-profit manages 10 apartment complexes consisting of more than 1,480 units, according to its website.

While the organization’s role is to provide affordable housing to low and moderate-income residents, Corcoran said they are selling the rental homes and refocusing their efforts on their apartment rentals.

“It’s more our expertise,” Corcoran said.

“We met with (HDC-DeKalb) and said we didn’t want to be landlords,” Dunn said of the deal. “We want to be a conduit to get them into the hands of renters.” Atlantica Properties and its equity partner New York-based real estate Auerbach Funds finalized the sale with HDC-DeKalb on Jan. 24 for $8 million, Dunn said. The homes range in value from $120,000 to $220,000.

Dunn hopes to keep monthly mortgage payments on the homes comparable to what renters are currently paying.

A Georgia Tech graduate and a resident of Smyrna, Dunn, 40, was born and raised in southwest DeKalb. The Buckhead real estate investor and his brother Trenton partnered together to form Atlantica Properties in 2010. Since then, they’ve owned and managed properties in Decatur, Forest Park, Hapeville, Lithonia, and Riverdale – places Dunn said were primarily underserved.

Many of the homes now owned by Atlantica Properties sit in older communities and some sit a short drive away from the recent North Decatur Square development.