Although Atlanta is deemed more affordable than most of the coastal cities, due to substantial population growth in recent years and the rising cost of living, the metro is facing affordability issues. With record unemployment numbers and other economic headwinds caused by the pandemic, the need for affordable and workforce housing has become even more apparent across the metro.
Ryan von Weller, the managing director of development at Wendover Housing Partners, talks about affordability in Atlanta and provides details about the company’s new affordable housing project in the metro, the 131-unit Hartland Station.
How is the current economic climate affecting the affordable and workforce housing markets in Atlanta?
Von Weller: There will always be a need for affordable housing because there is never enough inventory. Now with the coronavirus, the loss of jobs, etc., the need for affordable and workforce housing has become even more pronounced, especially within the Atlanta market.
How has the coronavirus outbreak impacted your projects across this market and others?
Von Weller: Wendover has been fortunate that the coronavirus outbreak has not slowed our progress. There is a new normal in the way properties are leased, run and built—but overall, we have not seen a negative impact.
Tell us more about your Hartland Station project in Atlanta.
Von Weller: Hartland Station will be a three-story community with 131 garden-style apartments. The property will comprise one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Once completed, community amenities will include a business center, activity and gathering rooms, kids play area, fitness room, outdoor grills and picnic area, splash pad and playground. Hartland Station will include 40 units set aside for those earning up to 50 percent of the area median and 70 units set aside for those earning up to 60 percent of the area median income.
How did you finance this project? How difficult was it to obtain financing, considering the pandemic?
Von Weller: Hartland Station is being financed in part by $945,515 low-income housing tax credit from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, $18.8 million in tax-exempt bonds and $1.5 million in Housing Opportunity Bonds from Invest Atlanta, and $1.3 million in grant funding from the Metropolitan Parkway tax allocation district.
Obtaining the financing for Hartland Station was really not affected by the pandemic. We are grateful that the teams from our financial partners as well as the city of Atlanta and Invest Atlanta, made the switch to work remotely in a nearly flawless transition. This allowed us to move forward to finalize the financing for the project unhindered by the pandemic.
What does this project mean for the revitalization of Atlanta’s Sylvan Hills neighborhood?
Von Weller: Hartland Station will provide much-needed workforce housing and serve as a catalyst for additional revitalization in Atlanta’s Sylvan Hills neighborhood, which is located about 4 miles from downtown Atlanta. It will be transforming a portion of a shopping center in the neighborhood to serve as workforce housing. Metro Atlanta is one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S. with a real need for more affordable living for residents in the area. Projects like Hartland Station add a new, modern revitalization to neighborhoods like Sylvan Hills while providing more housing options.
What are your predictions for the metro’s affordable and workforce housing markets going forward?
Von Weller: Like every other major metropolitan area, population growth leads to the need for all sorts of housing—affordable housing being no different. There will always be a need for affordable and workforce housing. As the population of Atlanta and other metro areas continue to grow, it will be a need that will be challenging to meet.