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Decatur City Commission approves 132-unit South Housing Village design

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Decatur City Commission approves 132-unit South Housing Village design

Decatur Housing Authority Executive Director Doug Faust (far left) presented the South Housing Village design for final approval by the Decatur City Commission on April 18. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — The Decatur City Commission, at its April 18 meeting, approved the design for the South Housing Village at Legacy Park. The affordable housing development will feature 132 units, made up of apartments, stacked flats and duplexes at the corner of South Columbia Drive and Katie Kerr Drive. The site of the development is about six acres.

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, City Manager Andrea Arnold wrote in a memo.

The Legacy Park Master Plan proposes two separate affordable housing villages on the property — the South Housing Village and the North Housing Village. 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.

At the Nov. 15, 2021, city commission meeting, the city commission approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Decatur Housing Authority. The DHA will serve as the developer of the South Housing Village.

“We do look at this as a community,” DHA Executive Director Doug  Faust said at the April 4 city commission meeting. “This is not a project. This is not public housing. This is a community of families.”

There are currently four duplexes on the site, which will be replaced with the new housing.

The design includes four apartment buildings, each with a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Three of the buildings have 24 units and the fourth will have 30 units. The apartments will be three stories tall, although the master plan had called for the apartments to be four stories.

The plan calls for four stacked flats, each with six three-bedroom units, as well as three duplexes, each with two two-bedroom units. The stacked flats will also be three stories and the duplexes will be two stories.

Amenities will include a community center, a shared outdoor recreation space, community gardens, an entry plaza, a grilling pavilion and several covered pavilions.

“One thing that I think is key to this plan is the provision of a commons area, or a greenspace, and community garden that is really the heart of the neighborhood,” said David Hamilton, the architect from Praxis3 working on the project. “We really tried to take that plan and create a neighborhood with a strong sense of place, a sense of community. That was very, very important to us.”

The housing will be built in two phases. Sixty-six units will be built in each phase. The first phase will include two apartment buildings, two stacked flat buildings, the three duplexes and the community center. The overall budget for phase one is about $21.8 million.

The second phase will include the remaining two apartment buildings and two stacked flat buildings. The overall budget for phase two is about $20.1 million.

“The reason we can’t apply for enough money at one given time to do the entire project at one time, which would be much more efficient, is that the resources are limited,” Faust said. “We [don’t have] enough resources to build 132 units at one time, so we have to split it in two.”

Faust explained that there would be no bond funding associated with the development of the housing.

There’s no city tax revenue that is being committed to this project, Arnold added. The city commission plans to use money from the American Rescue Plan to help fund the project, but the city is not borrowing money and local tax revenue will not be committed to the project, Arnold said.

The federal government has set criteria for what ARPA funding can be used for, and one of those uses is to provide infrastructure for low-income neighborhoods and low-income housing.

“You cannot use the ARPA funds to reduce the millage rates, say roll back taxes. You can’t use it for debt service. You can’t use it for pension plans,” Arnold said. “There are a few things it can’t be used for, but…the final rules from ARPA do say that the funds may be used for affordable housing.”

In addition to the design, the city commission approved a resolution that outlines the city’s financial commitment to the project. The city will provide about $3.7 million for non-utility infrastructure improvements. The funding could come from the city’s American Rescue Plan allotment, but city staff still have the option to look for and use other funding sources, Arnold said.

“The purpose of those funds is for the infrastructure related to the site,” Arnold said. “This is the infrastructure that is needed to support the site. This is public infrastructure, so roads, sidewalk, stormwater, really any kind of infrastructure that a private utility, say, wouldn’t be responsible for.”

The city will allocate $2.4 million for phase one and $1.3 million for phase two of the project, according to the resolution. The total cost of the infrastructure is $5.5 million and DHA will provide $1.8 million for the infrastructure.

The Decatur Housing Authority will be applying for low-income housing tax credits through the state Department of Community Affairs, which is anticipated to be the primary funding source of the project. Part of the application requires the city to execute a land use restriction covenant to ensure the long-term affordability of the housing, Arnold said.

The city will retain ownership of the land and plans to enter into a ground lease with DHA.

As for next steps for the project, DHA will apply for low-income housing tax credits through DCA in May for phase one, permitting would happen in December, construction would begin in April 2023 and residents would move in, in the summer of 2024.

The low-income housing tax credit application for phase two is due in May 2023, construction would begin in April 2024 and more residents would move in, in the summer of 2025.

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