The Atlanta Housing (AH) board of commissioners on Wednesday approved rent subsidies for a controversial plan to replace an old, vacant house on Moreland Avenue in Reynoldstown with apartments for people experiencing homelessness—after announcing the project will likely be pared down from the 42 units previously planned.
The Reynoldstown Civic Improvement League voted against the proposal in March, with its leaders asserting that 42 units would be too dense for the 0.38-acre site at 111 Moreland Ave. Some neighbors said they worried that housing so many tenants in such a tight space along the busy thoroughfare would place them in danger of being hit by cars, adding that a downsized plan would be more palatable.
AH’s April 26 vote authorizes the housing authority to subsidize rent for up to 42 units for 15 years—which would cost $9.1 million. However, Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, who represents District 5, where the project is located, and Mayor Andre Dickens’ top housing advisor, Joshua Humphries, helped broker a compromise with neighbors that will likely reduce the unit count to the low- to mid-30s, freeing up some square footage for additional communal space.
Reducing the number of units at the planned complex will make it more difficult to fund the project, said AH’s chief real estate officer, Dejernette Beaty, during the April 26 meeting. “This will result in an estimated financing gap of approximately $1.5 million. However, the city of Atlanta is working with the developer to find sources to fill that gap.”
Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, has already committed to providing a $1 million construction loan for the project, but developer Stryant Investments’ co-founder, Stan Sugarman, said finding more funding will be difficult.
“I’ve been doing this 20 years, and money doesn’t grow on trees,” he said in an interview after the vote. “We’re going to shake a lot of trees.”
Despite the financing challenges that reducing the number of units would pose, “everybody is committed to making the project happen,” said Cathryn Vassell, the executive director of Partners For Home, the city-funded nonprofit that would refer unhoused Atlantans for tenancy at the planned complex and provide them with supportive services.
“We certainly need as many units as we can get, but if we’re making a product that everybody, including the neighbors, can feel good about, I think we’re okay with compromise,” she told Atlanta Civic Circle.
Bakhtiari said in a statement, “Having convened multiple conversations between all stakeholders myself, I remain optimistic that a solution emerges that balances the concerns of residents while providing housing to those among us most at risk.”