During a heated community meeting Monday night, Reynoldstown residents voted against a contentious proposal to replace a dilapidated and vacant house on busy Moreland Avenue with 42 small studio apartments for people experiencing homelessness.

The Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League’s (RCIL) 79-16 opposing vote isn’t necessarily a nail in the coffin for Stryant Investments’ ambitious proposition, but it complicates the developer’s appeal for financing help from the city’s housing authority, Atlanta Housing, which under the current plan would help pay the tenants’ rent.

Stryant executives say neighbors of the proposed complex at 111 Moreland Ave. don’t want to live near a large group of recently unhoused people, who could have mental health and substance use issues. But neighborhood opponents say they’re worried that a densely inhabited three-story apartment block on 0.38 acres would create an unsafe environment for tenants by forcing people to live on top of one another next to a high-traffic corridor.

Some of the Reynoldstown residents who voted no also told Atlanta Civic Circle after the March 13 meeting that the reputation of one of Stryant’s co-founders, Atticus LeBlanc, for promoting highly dense, high-turnover housing had cast a pall over the developer’s bid for community support.

LeBlanc also runs PadSplit, a startup that allows landlords and property owners to rent out single-family houses by the room for periods as short as a week. Critics have called it “Like Airbnb, but for Flophouses,” but LeBlanc said after the meeting that he resents that claim and that PadSplit’s work has nothing to do with the Reynoldstown project.

Valarie Acree, a Reynoldstown resident since 1999, said in an interview Monday, “I voted to not let another slumlord in here.”

“If you’re not going to treat your residents with respect and dignity and give them the things they need, and you’re just going to put them in the space and overcrowd them, then you’re not helping with the issue,” she said of efforts to house people who are homeless.

Acree added that she’d be more amenable to the plan if it came from a developer she trusted. The Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League’s leaders, who also derided LeBlanc for his work with PadSplit, previously told Atlanta Civic Circle that its board was open to a plan calling for fewer units.

But the developers say downsizing from 42 units would require at least $2 million more in grant funding.

“We made a proposal to the neighborhood that we could cut the units if they could find the grant money,” Stryant co-founder Stan Sugarman said in an interview. The community didn’t bite, he added.

“We tried to dispel the myths around homelessness and affordability,” Sugarman said. “Obviously, we didn’t do a good job.”

Reynoldstown resident Lindsay Hauler voted in favor of the project, despite what she called “a monologue that displayed an incredible amount of bias” from the neighborhood group’s board chair, Lindalisa Severo, before the vote.

When the meeting started, Severo decried claims that opposition to the Moreland Avenue project is propelled by NIMBYism (a not-in-my-backyard mindset). Reynoldstown is “probably one of the only neighborhoods [that] has pushed for affordable housing,” she said, pointing to other developments that include units for people making less than the area median income.

”We do have the right to ask hard questions about how these people will be configured in a small space,” Severo told the meeting attendees. The Reynoldstown Community Improvement League board did not allow the Stryant team to respond to Severo’s comments before the vote.

Atticus LeBlanc stands in the back of a packed meeting room, raising his hand.
Atticus LeBlanc stands with his hand raised during the Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League meeting. He never gets a chance to speak. (Credit: Sean Keenan)

Hauler said Severo’s lobbying against the project before the vote doesn’t look like “YIMBYism” (a yes-in-my-backyard attitude) to her. “They might not be NIMBY, but they don’t seem very willing to make [a development] happen that would help people who don’t have resources to get on their feet.”

With thousands of Atlantans living on the street, the city needs housing for the unhoused wherever it can get it, said Cathryn Vassell, the executive director of Partners For Home, the city-funded nonprofit that would hand-pick residents to live at Stryant’s Reynoldstown complex and provide them with supportive services.

“We provided studies and research,” she said after the meeting of the development team’s attempts to inform the community of the plan’s benefits. “We provided support based on other supportive housing projects—both locally and nationally—and then the [neighborhood’s] comments come back that, ‘No, this has nothing to do with NIMBYism.’” 

“Call it what you may,” she said.

In response to Severo’s assertion that the Moreland Avenue proposal is “way too dense,” Vassell noted that nearby Old Fourth Ward welcomed an even denser supportive housing development, the O’Hern House, with 76 rentals in a renovated historic building.

If the Stryant team manages to secure financing from Atlanta Housing, the apartment building would offer 42 studio apartments with kitchenettes spanning less than 300 square feet, with shared full kitchens, laundry rooms, and a communal lounge. 

Rent would run around $1,012 for a furnished unit, including utilities and internet, according to Stryant. If the housing authority backs the proposal, it would ensure tenants pay no more than 30% of their monthly income in rent. If the roughly $1,000 per month rent is higher,  Atlanta Housing would pay the difference, meaning, in some cases, the tenant would pay nothing.

A small brown house with a gabled roof sits in the shade of old trees, surrounded by a green lawn.
111 Moreland Avenue. (Credit: Google Maps)

LeBlanc expressed frustration with the Reynoldstown group’s vote in an interview after the meeting: “How many units in Reynoldstown are available at $1,015 or less, anywhere? The answer is zero. So you can’t readily be a supporter of affordable housing and have zero units at the comparable rent that’s proposed.”

Stryant still plans to seek Atlanta Housing’s financial help, but LeBlanc said he does not know when the developers will be able to make their case before the agency’s board of commissioners.

The housing authority does not require the community’s blessing when deciding whether to assist a project, but it certainly helps, agency spokespeople have told Atlanta Civic Circle.

Vassell said of the Atlanta Housing board, “They have approved deals that have not gotten neighborhood approval before.”

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  1. Personally I hope the city does it anyway. This just smacks of NIMBYism no matter what lipstick or spin you try to slap on it. Moreover, that site is well connected to transit, and has walkable amenities – both of which help wraparound individuals coming out of homelessness to stabilize and become more economically self-sufficient and community integrated. It’s also on a high-traffic corridor with all sorts of dense townhouse style adjacent to it. Those who express concern about micro studio units as not dignified are uninformed. They’ve proven to be a successful transitional model for individuals coming out of homelessness who may have been isolated and need a trauma-informed transitional setting that is not overwhelming. That’s mostly people applying an American cultural bias toward single-family, large square footage to people who are literally unsheltered and chronically disabled – meaning they’re going to have more challenge maintaining stable tenancy. Reynoldstown neighborhood used to be full of affordable housing. Those living there need to assume some civic responsibility not push it all on Downtown, Westside and Old Fourth Ward. I’m in O4W and live literally next to affordable senior housing with both AH-owned and project based within a 3 block radius. It’s not a impediment to my quality of life or the quality of the neighborhood.

    1. J G based on your response it looks like you didn’t attend any of the meetings so not sure your comments make sense to the context of the actual meetings that occurred and if you google Reynoldstown affordable housing you will see for yourself all the affordable housing opportunities in place and actually being built in Reynoldstown. Based on the articles author writing it also doesn’t look like he attended the zoning meeting where it was actually the a Reynoldstown community that offered to write a grant for the money difference and Stan didn’t acknowledge the offer during the meeting, never followed up with the neighborhood, nor did Stan provide any dollar value for what he actually needed to build the 20 units he promised in the being of the project. Just shows Atlanta Civic Circle doesn’t do it’s home work which is a shame. Believe it or not but there is a lot of documentation and recordings that backs what was said by the neighborhood regardless of what Stan or Carthryn Vassell are pilfering in these articles. It’s a sad day when folks intentionally lie, publish those lies, and aren’t professional.

  2. Glad they mentioned the O’Hern House. I walk by there daily and it is an open air drug market right outside where tenants buy their drugs. I challenge anyone to go at anytime and drive by the entrance to this building and report back. Reynoldstown has valid concerns. I am always for helping people, but Sugarman is out to make a buck off the taxpayers as he gets 1,000+ for each dorm room and will pocket around 30k a month and will make a net a cool 5 million in 15 years with his guaranteed rental payment scheme.

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