Building Back the Block

After decades of neglect in English Avenue, a cluster of multi-family housing properties are finding new life. Just a block from Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway at the corner of Echo Street and Fox Street, Westside Future Fund acquired three multi-family housing complexes and is now renovating them as affordable housing units.

Two of the buildings were tenant occupied at purchase, and the third building was in desperate need of repair. Those repairs are underway and the building is currently in the framing stage. Once complete, it will house seven new units in addition to the 23 units in the existing two buildings – made possible thanks to acquisition and renovation financing funding from the WFF Impact Fund, charitable donors, and Invest Atlanta for providing the acquisition and renovation financing funding.

WFF has hired oaksATL as the contractor for this rebuild. Founded in 2016, oaksATL is a local Westside non-profit organization dedicated to combating community deterioration.

With increasing property development in the immediate area, the cost to rent a one-bedroom unit in the surrounding market starts at approximately $1,800 per month, well above the cost of rent two decades ago. The rising costs of housing in the new developments has trickled down to existing homes, with many legacy residents seeing their rent increasing to unaffordable amounts.

WFF is offering units in their newly renovated multi-family housing complexes for as low as $700 per month through the Home on the Westside program, a community retention initiative that prioritizes residents with a live, learn or work connection to the community.

WFF has a strong commitment to affordability to support legacy residents, utilizing raised charitable funds and a partnership with Atlanta Housing Authority to subsidize rent.

Multi-Family Projects in the Mix

Derrick Jordan, Westside resident and real estate development consultant at WFF, helps to guide the organization’s multi-family development projects to completion. For him, the role WFF plays in maintaining the fabric of the community is essential.

“Because of high-priced housing coming into the neighborhood and surrounding areas, we offer stability for legacy families who want to remain in the community,” said Jordan. “And the work we’re doing with new construction and rehabilitation is centered around successful community nodes that provide livable resources and potential employment.”

The Echo Street project is one of many multi-family development projects WFF that is slated for completion this year The initiative to produce quality, affordable multi-family housing throughout Vine City and English Avenue is a direct result of the Land Use Framing Plan developed and sponsored by the City of Atlanta and WFF and codified by the Atlanta City Council four years ago.

According to Jordan, “The plan was formed through a lot of community input and citizen participation. People came to the meetings and said ‘hey, this is what we want our community to look like.’ Affordable housing was laid out as one of the principal things the neighborhood needs, so we’ve been buying and rehabbing affordable homes in accordance with the plan the community helped create.”

There are currently 181 multi-family housing units in service thanks to WFF developments, and there are an additional 273 units either under construction or planned for construction in the near future that will also count against Mayor Dickens’ goal of 20,000 affordable units.

“The stability these projects bring to the community members is critical to preserving the fabric of who these communities are,” said Jordan.