New Effort On Atlanta’s Westside Looks To Protect Longtime Renters

John Ahmann, executive director of the Westside Future Fund, shows off the first property the nonprofit is renovating. The 35 units in English Avenue will be targeted at the neighborhood’s longtime renters.

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When neighborhood values go up, how do you prevent renters from getting priced out? The answer from a city-backed nonprofit on Atlanta’s fast-developing westside is to get into the real estate business.

The Westside Future Fund, a group focused on the revitalization of neighborhoods around the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, unveiled the first property it plans to turn into affordable housing on Friday.

The nonprofit’s executive director John Ahmann said the 35 units on the site in English Avenue will be priced for those making minimum wage. And they’re just the start.

“Under the leadership of the city, we’re working hard to buy property to make sure that legacy residents, often the working poor, can stay in their community as it populates,” he said.

The nonprofit hopes to raise between $50 and $100 million in donations to support the effort. Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said the funding will count toward the $1 billion she promised to spend on affordable housing on the campaign trail.

The units created will be targeted at renters who’ve lived in the area since before Mercedes Benz stadium opened. Those who already have been displaced may also be eligible.

“The goal is not that people live here for the rest of their life renting. The goal is that they move on up the ladder,” Ahmann said. “To provide stable housing for them to be able to begin that journey.”

Ahmann said they plan to provide residents at the sites with job training and other services. His nonprofit will contract with a property management company to maintain the apartments.

Renters account for the majority of residents in neighborhoods like Vine City and English Avenue. And they can be a challenging group for local governments to protect. Under Georgia law, cities can’t tell landlords how much to charge for rent.

Last year, the Westside Future Fund and the city announced a similar effort aimed at longtime homeowners. The privately funded program will cover any property tax increases on the westside for the next 20 years.

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