UPCLOSE & PERSONAL
come households. That’s approximately 50,000 people! These resources include a variety of developments and services, including AHA-owned communities, AHA-sponsored mixed-income communi- ties, the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCVP), our project-based rental assistance program called HomeFlex, supportive housing arrangements, and homeownership programming. TRM How does that translate to affordable housing in the community? KY Our strategic plan, Vision 2022: LIVE. WORK. THRIVE, charges the agency with finding innovative ways to increase affordable housing options and developing quality communities while also creating opportunities for the advance- ment of working families, children, seniors, and persons with disabilities. AHA is also leveraging a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant from HUD to revitalize three Westside communities and redevelop a former public housing site. Because Vision 2022 employs AHA’s signature model of using public/private partnerships to preserve affordability and create mixed-finance, mixed-income communities, we need investors and devel- opers to accept Housing Choice Vouchers at new and existing properties. We also want them to participate in our HomeFlex program, which provides rental assistance on a determined number of units at their multifamily properties, and to engage as innovative development partners. TRM How can investors get involved in this type of opportunity? KY AHA would like property owners to consider the AHA business models as part of their investing strategy. HCVP and HomeFlex are rental assistance programs that provide solutions for investors and developers who understand the balanced
economic need for affordability and also the need to generate cash flow that keep their properties profitable. AHA is a Moving-to-Work (a desig- nation issued by HUD) agency, so the housing authority has some flexibility in its program structures [that other, similar agencies may not have]. For example, AHA utilizes rent comparable reports on each property through Georgia Multiple Listing Service (GAMLS) for single family resi- dences and the Yardi Matrix, a proprietary housing management software, for multi- family communities. Through this method, we are able to pay market-influenced rents. TRM Market rents are definitely important, and a lot of investors don’t realize that some housing authorities can pay them. Are there other misconceptions about AHA or housing authorities in general you’d like to clear up? KY One of the biggest misconceptions about AHA is that we serve non-working families, when, in fact, we serve working families, the elderly, veterans and the disabled. AHA has a work requirement in our subsidized housing programs. The “LIVE” thrust of our strategy emphasizes the need for family independence and focuses on addressing the barriers that our families face in achieving it. Our rental assistance programs and mixed-income models of development help to mainstream our families, allowing them to choose the home, the community, and the schools that work best for them. In return, we require that in all non-elderly, non-disabled households, at least one adult works 30 or more hours per week. All oth- ers must be working 30 or more hours, in school full-time, or a combination of both. Families are responsible for contributing 30 percent of their monthly income toward housing expenses, and the AHAmakes up the difference. [This means] investors can realize their returns and our families can
afford to live near work, amenities, and, most importantly, solid-performing schools for their children. TRM Lastly, you’re probably closer to the affordable housing “crisis,” as it’s being called in the media, than anyone. What’s your take on the situation in Atlanta? KY Atlanta is booming, attracting multinational companies, the film industry, tons of skilled workers who are flooding the city with great salaries, and developers who are responding to the demand for luxury housing and ameni- ties. This drives all the new construction we are seeing and is raising rates for existing property. That, in turn, renders most housing within city limits out of the financial reach of working-class families. Between 2010 and 2014, Atlanta lost more than 5,300 housing units renting for less than $750 a month, and that number is increasing. AHA’s role is to find ways to preserve affordable hous- ing already in place and to create means for low-income working families to maintain access to quality, amenity-rich housing close to jobs, transportation, and high-performing schools, so they can also benefit from all the great things happening in the city. Our innovative programs allow developers and property owners to earn the cash flows they need to make their projects profitable [while accommodating affordable housing needs]. If every new multifamily com- munity took just two families, the im- pact would be enormous. It would also help relieve areas that currently provide the bulk of affordable housing, which in turn helps to provide a sustainable solution to workforce housing. •
Karen Young is the business development leader for the Atlanta Housing Authority and an advocate for the agency, the families it serves, and real estate investors.
One-on-Onewith the Atlanta HousingAuthority ONE OF THE LARGEST HOUSING AUTHORITIES IN THE COUNTRY PEELS BACK THE CURTAIN.
by Carole VanSickle Ellis
authorities enforce rigorous standards when it comes to caring for the residence and paying rent on time. “One of the biggest misconceptions we face is that we serve non-working families when, in fact, we serve working families, the elderly, veterans, and the disabled,” said Karen Young, the business development leader for the Atlanta, Georgia’s housing authority (AHA)’s most expansive pro- gram, the Housing Choice Voucher Pro- gram (HCVP). Think Realty Magazine sat down with Young to learn more about how
eal estate investors often cringe at the words “local housing author-
real estate investors can get involved with their housing authority and what every real estate investor should know about housing authorities and the affordable housing resources they provide.
ity.” While the term has a long, storied, and often strongly negative connotation, most of that negativity is due to decades of miscommunication between real estate in- vestors and these organizations which are, in truth, dedicated to providing affordable housing resources to the same households many real estate investors serve: tenants. Furthermore, the AHA’s tenant popula- tion is often among the most reliable and responsible of its kind because housing
So, tell us a
THINK REALTY MAGAZINE little bit about the AHA.
KAREN YOUNG AHA is one of the largest housing authorities in the nation, provid- ing and facilitating affordable housing resources for more than 22,000 low-in-
Karen Young is the business development leader for the Atlanta Housing Authority’s Housing Choice Voucher Program. She may be reached at leads@ atlantahousing.org or call 404.541.6759.
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