Some city leaders complained the Atlanta housing authority’s plan to revitalize the 74-acre Bowen Homes site on the Westside didn’t have enough affordable housing when the agency named a development team in October.
But a new plan from the project’s developers, The Benoit Group and McCormack Baron Salazer, that Atlanta Housing (AH) revealed this week increases the affordable housing component to 41% of the 2,000 total units to be built, which is up from 27% in the October plan.
According to the revised plan, more than 41% of the units (825 apartments) will be affordable for people making 80% or less of the area median income (AMI)—and 12.6% (251 apartments) are earmarked for people making under 60% AMI. The Atlanta AMI for a family of four is about $96,400, so 80% AMI is $77,120.
The latest blueprint was published in AH’s application for a $40 million community revitalization grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Bowen Homes redevelopment. Calling for 825 homes priced at 80% AMI or under for low- to moderate-income households, the new plan is a big jump from the 502 affordable units in the initial plan.
The total unit count also increased—up from 1,892 units in October to 2,000 apartments and for-sale homes in the current plan.
This monumental mixed-use project would breathe life into 74 acres of land on the former Bowen Homes public housing site that’s been vacant for 13 years. But it hinges on the housing authority securing HUD’s $40 million neighborhood improvement grant, said Larry Stewart, who chairs AH’s board of commissioners.
“We probably wouldn’t be able to do the deal in the way that we’ve talked about [without the grant],” he said in an interview. “We’d have to go back to the drawing board.”
The total development cost for the Bowen Homes land is projected at $560 million.
Stewart said the board is “very optimistic” about winning the HUD funding, since the Bowen Homes site’s resurgence is a key component of AH’s newly released five-year development roadmap, which includes other high-profile projects, like the much-anticipated revival of Old Fourth Ward’s Atlanta Civic Center.
“The Civic Center is not as big from an acreage perspective, though it has visibility and a lot of emotional attachment,” Stewart said, noting that it’s less than a third the size of the Bowen Homes site. “Bowen Homes is really the lynchpin to this entire Hollowell corridor and its transformation, and so it’s very important for us to get this right.”
Even though the affordable housing component has increased to 825 apartments in the developers’ revised plan, only 251 units would be priced for households earning under 60% AMI, which is where the real need is.
AH’s chief mission is to provide as much affordable housing as possible for the city’s lower income people–and housing experts say Atlanta urgently needs apartments affordable to families earning 50% AMI or less, which is roughly $48,200 for a four-person household.
But Stewart said the Bowen Homes plan is still a work in progress. When AH’s board approved the development team in October, they merely granted The Benoit Group and McCormack Baron Salazar the right to negotiate a master development agreement, which is subject to board approval.
Although it’s “certainly a balancing act,” to push for-profit developers to include housing priced below the market rate, Stewart said, the AH board aims to maximize the affordable housing component of this project and others.