Putting the puzzle pieces together to build affordable homes
In booming Atlanta, where affordable housing is increasingly hard to come by, the Atlanta Land Trust is part of the solution. The nonprofit corporation is creating permanently affordable homes for sale in neighborhoods along the Atlanta BeltLine corridor. These are areas of the city where longtime residents are being priced out and are at risk of displacement.
The work is a labor of love for Executive Director Amanda Rhein, who’s spent most of her career with impact-driven organizations focused on community development. And it’s a mission key partners – including Tandem Bank, which offered the construction loan, and Joe Brown, a principal with Intown Builders – could get behind.
The Avenue at Oakland City is one of three townhome communities the Atlanta Land Trust is currently developing. It broke ground in December 2022 and is located about half a mile south of the BeltLine’s Westside Trail. Phase I of the project should be completed by the end of 2023. When it’s all done, the community will include 36 townhomes, of which 29 will be permanently affordable.
A project like this requires, first and foremost, community buy-in. To get that, representatives of Atlanta Land Trust have attended neighborhood meetings, enlisted a resident to serve on the project’s board of directors, marketed the opportunity to current Oakland City residents, and hosted monthly information sessions to outline the process and qualifications.
Any affordable housing endeavor takes time and involves multiple layers of bureaucracy, but this rare model – which creates permanently affordable housing for sale, not just for rent – is even more complicated.
For one, at a time when supply chain issues fluctuate and costs for, say, concrete go up, increased construction expenses can’t simply be foisted on buyers – which means price rejiggering is a constant. There are also more than 15 funding sources involved, each with different requirements that must be met for affordability targets, timelines, interest rates and more. Mortgage lenders for qualified buyers require more specific underwriting criteria, which takes additional time and work. And the Avenue at Oakland City, a multi-family project, sits in a single-family historic district, which means the project must conform to strict design guidelines.
Given the challenges of this mission-driven undertaking, reliable partnerships – across the board – mean everything. Tandem Bank was willing to roll up its sleeves to understand the nuances of what was involved and needed.
“They embraced the opportunity and really helped us figure out how to navigate putting the financial package together for this project,” said Brown of Intown Builders. “They’ve been a really good partner in helping put the pieces of the puzzle together.”
With construction funding secured and building underway, Atlanta Land Trust can laser focus on the business it cares about most.
“At the end of the day,” Rhein said, “we are all invested in making sure that long-time Atlantans can benefit from the growth of the city, and everyone who wishes to call Atlanta home can afford to do so.”