By Sean Keenan

A cohort of Atlanta business leaders recently launched a new trust fund that could help boost the city’s affordable housing stock by some 1,500 units.

As of last week, almost a third of the potentially $25 million pot has been raised, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The Atlanta Affordable Housing Fund, LP (AAHF) marks a step in the right direction, but a drop in the proverbial bucket in terms of combating Atlanta’s burgeoning housing affordability crisis.

Atlanta loses about 1,500 affordable housing units each year, according to advocacy group HouseATL. So, to help offset that widening gap, roughly 10,000 housing units must be produced in the metro Atlanta area per year for the next decade, the Urban Land Institute has suggested.

The trust fund, launched by local business heavies like multifamily residential developer Marc Pollack of RangeWater Real Estate, Integral Group founder Egbert Perry and Regent Partners’s David Allman, would provide low-interest-rate financing to developers and investors interested in creating affordable units.

HouseATL member Sarah Kirsch told SaportaReport that the creation of new funding mechanisms — both public and private — is a big part of championing the organization’s goal of investing $1 billion in affordable housing creation and preservation over the next few years.

That mission, which became a centerpiece of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s bid for office in 2017, aims to create 24,000 affordable units.

This new program, Kirsch said, is one of Atlanta’s first social impact funds, which allow investors to finance projects in exchange for nominal return on investment, but a significant benefit to the community. Those who contribute to social impact funds, she added, “know they’re helping solve a social problem.”

Kirsch also said she thinks there could be a larger appetite for similar programs among the real estate community. “In other parts of the country, social impact investing is a huge piece of both philanthropic and investment communities,” she said. “In Georgia, it just has not been a mainstream thing.”

“They’re piloting this at $25 million, but I think it can grow by multiples of that,” Kirsch added. “But first, you need to prove the case with folks and let them see how it works.”

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