Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced an initiative Wednesday  that could produce 1,000 affordable homes on land owned by churches, mosques, and synagogues over the next five years.

The new endeavor — part of nonprofit developer Enterprise Community Partners’ Faith-Based Development Initiative — is projected to deliver 1,000 rental and for-sale units across 52 acres of land owned by 15 houses of worship in Atlanta. Those could include Atlanta First United Methodist Church and Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church, among others. 

Faith-based organizations in Fulton County alone own more than 6,000 acres of land, and much is underutilized, according to Enterprise materials. The housing initiative will tee up the religious groups to seek the city’s assistance through its housing opportunity bond program or other funding mechanisms.

Though details are still scant, Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic, Enterprise’s Southeast vice president, said during a press conference Wednesday that the rentals would be priced for households earning 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) or less, while the home-ownership units would be affordable to those making 120% of the AMI or less.

An $8.5 million Wells Fargo Foundation grant was also announced that will support pre-development efforts at these sites. The initiative will also tee up these organizations to seek help from the city, by way of the housing opportunity bond program or other funding mechanisms. 

To fulfill his campaign promise of providing 20,000 new or refurbished affordable housing units over the next eight years, Dickens said, “We will need the assistance of all facets of our community, using all tools at our disposal.”

“By partnering with houses of worship to develop underutilized land owned by faith-based groups to deliver affordable housing, we have the opportunity to get at least 1,000 units closer to our goal,” he said. 

Dickens has called on the faith-based community to contribute 10% of the homes needed to meet his 20,000-unit goal.

“Over the next eight years, 2,000 units are going to come from the faith-based community,” he said. “Today we just announced how we’re going to get the first 1,000, and then the rest is going to be on the way by the good graces of God.”

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