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Decatur City Commission, Decatur Housing Authority partnering on Legacy Park affordable housing


Decatur City Commission, Decatur Housing Authority partnering on Legacy Park affordable housing

The Decatur City Commission, at its Nov. 15 meeting, approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority to develop and manage the South Housing Village at Legacy Park. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

This story has been updated.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission moved one step closer to building affordable housing at Legacy Park. At the Nov. 15 regular meeting, the board approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority, who will serve as the developer of the South Housing Village at Legacy Park.

“The City Commission has identified affordable housing as a priority,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said. “This priority is reflected in the 2020 strategic plan, and it’s also in the Legacy Park Master Plan. The housing addendum of that plan includes a concept plan for a community of affordable housing. Currently, we’re referring to that as the South Housing Village.”

After the city bought the former United Methodist Children’s Home — later renamed Legacy Park — the Decatur Legacy Park Master Plan was adopted by the City Commission in December 2018. The final plan includes a housing addendum that provides detail about the housing goals identified during the planning process. One of the adopted housing concepts is the South Housing Village that envisions a community of affordable duplexes, walk-up flats and multiplexes, Arnold wrote in a memo.

The Legacy Park Master Plan proposes two separate affordable housing villages on the property. The housing addendum specifies the location and types of housing that will be allowed in each village.

The North Housing Village concept recommends a mix of new single-family and duplex cottages, with each unit no greater than 1,500 square feet and a building height limit of 25 feet. The historic Sam Bell and Glenn buildings that are already there would be renovated and could provide an additional 16 co-housing units.

The South Housing Village concept plans for a combination of walk-up flats, multiplexes and duplexes that could support up to 130 units. For the South Village housing, the multiplexes could contain up to 25 units in a four-story building, with a building height limit of 50 feet. The walk-up flats would be buildings with four to eight units in each, limited to three-story buildings with an overall height limit of 40 feet. Duplexes could be up to two stories, with a 35-foot height limit, and 2,800 square feet per unit.

To construct the South Housing Village, the city plans to partner with the Decatur Housing Authority, which will apply for low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC) and oversee the development of the project in cooperation with the city.

“We’re honored by this opportunity to partner with you to create this housing,” DHA Executive Director Doug Faust said. “We think this represents the next phase in actually developing a larger-scale project that meets the city’s goals to provide that affordable housing.”

DHA will partner with an architect as well as other design professionals and will oversee the construction. They will also engage a contractor to do the construction, Arnold told Decaturish.

“The Decatur Housing Authority was identified as a potential partner during the initial Legacy Park Master Plan process as well as expressly identified in the Housing Addendum as a partner to access federal subsidies to make the homes more affordable to families earning less than the area median income (AMI),” Arnold said. “A request for proposals is not necessary for a city to contract with another public entity (i.e., the Decatur Housing Authority) to provide services.  The Decatur Housing Authority is a trusted public organization with decades of experience in developing and managing affordable housing developments.”

Once the development is complete, DHA will manage the South Housing Village and will likely be able to work with a range of incomes between 0-80% of the area median income, Faust said.

The income limit for an affordable housing program is the maximum amount of income a household can earn to qualify for assistance. A household’s income is calculated by its gross income, which is the total income received before making subtractions for taxes and other deductions. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published the 2021 Income Limits on April 1, 2021, with the same effective date, according to Invest Atlanta.

These limits include the limits for HUD assisted properties as well as the limits for Housing Credit and Tax-Exempt Bond properties known as the Multifamily Tax Subsidy Properties (MTSP) Income Limits.

Table courtesy of Invest Atlanta.

Arnold told Decaturish that the agreement also states in part that the project, “Such development will include units primarily dedicated to families making up to sixty percent (60%) of area median income (AMI) may include units dedicated to families making from sixty (60%) to one hundred twenty (120%) of AMI depending on the criteria required by DCA LIHTC Applications and DHA’s development financing strategy.”

She added that this is consistent with the housing addendum of the Legacy Park master plan and the goal is to provide housing that is affordable for a range of incomes.

“Generally, when we talk about affordable housing, we are referring to housing options for households making less than the area median income (AMI), typically 30-80%, and workforce housing may include households that earn 80-120% AMI,” Arnold said. “The low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC) units have rents that are set at reasonable levels for lower income families.  DHA may attach some project based rental assistance to some of the units, but it will not be public housing.”

Some key points of the agreement include:

— The subject area is at the corner of South Columbia Drive and Katie Kerr, which may change with the realignment of Katie Kerr. The city and DHA are working together to finalize the plans for what that area will look like.

— Due to the current bond financing for the Legacy Park property, there are bond financing constraints and limits on the roles of public facilities authorities. The property is owned by the city’s Public Facilities Authority, so the bonds for the South Housing Village area will need to be redeemed through housing bonds issued by DHA.

“The Housing Authority will issue the [housing] bonds and that will then redeem the outstanding bonds on this portion of the property,” Arnold said during the City Commisison meeting meeting. “The good thing is that we anticipated that we would be doing something different with this property in the very near future, so those bonds are callable Feb. 1 of 2022.”

The city estimated the cost of bonds in this area to be about $4 million for the six and half acres and the city will take on the debt service for the housing bonds. The IGA will remain in effect until city makes final debt service payment, but it cannot exceed 50 years.

This will also be an opportunity for the city to look at refinancing the bonds for the whole Legacy Park property.

— The property is owned by the Public Facilities Authority, which is limited in the services it can provide. The PFA cannot provide housing. The city will ask the PFA to convey the property to the city. Once the city owns the property, it will enter into a long-term ground lease with the Decatur Housing Authority. The term of the lease has not been determined.

The city of Decatur will be responsible for public infrastructure on the site and expects to use American Rescue Plan Act funds. DHA will develop cost estimates, including costs associated with the site improvements. Before the 2022 low-income housing tax credit deadline, the City Commission will discuss the project design and development plan during a work session with DHA, and consider approval at a subsequent meeting.

Writer Cathi Harris contributed to this story.

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