Eight Georgia communities honored for promoting affordable housing and project innovation

Eight Georgia communities honored for promoting affordable housing and project innovation

The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) celebrates 10th anniversary with awards for 2015

ATLANTA – November 16, 2015 – (RealEstateRama) — The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) program recognized the cities of Covington, Gainesville, Pembroke, Rome, Thomasville, Valdosta, Vienna and Washington for their efforts to increase affordable housing and to revitalize their communities at the “Celebrating a Decade of Success” awards event held October 21 at the UGA Georgia Center in Athens.

“With the ongoing support of our Founding Sponsor, the Georgia Power Company, GICH has facilitated progress toward housing stability in 55 Georgia communities. Today we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the GICH program by recognizing outstanding examples of affordable housing projects and innovations by GICH communities,” said Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Deputy Commissioner for Housing Carmen Chubb from the event stage.

Launched in 2004, GICH helps communities improve their quality of life and economic vitality through the development of housing and revitalization strategies. GICH offers communities a three-year program of collaboration and technical assistance. During a community’s participation, team members work to create and launch a locally-based plan to meet local housing needs.

All GICH communities were invited to submit applications for five award categories — Adaptive Reuse, Affordable Rental Housing, Community Outreach & Engagement, Homeownership, and Neighborhood Revitalization. Based upon review of the quality of the applications received, the awards committee included two additional categories, Community Transformation and Housing Innovation, to adequately recognize the results achieved.

The panel of experts considered the following criteria in making their recommendations for awards: measurable benefits to affordable housing in Georgia; the degree to which the project or innovation can be replicated; how well the project or innovation responds to the identified need or opportunity; and cost-effectiveness.

The City of Valdosta was recognized with the Adaptive Reuse Award for the repurposing of an existing structure for affordable housing units. The Ashley House is an historic property located in downtown Valdosta. Constructed in 1925 as the Ashley Hotel, this project was designed to address redevelopment while preserving the historical and affordable housing aspects and continuing to re-invigorate the downtown area. The building currently houses senior citizens in 61 newly-renovated residential units with two commercial spaces on the bottom floor. The Ashley House also includes a green space courtyard, a computer center, wellness room, and arts and crafts room. The property is the first historical development to be certified as an EarthCraft multi-family building and an EarthCraft site.

The City of Pembroke was honored with the Affordable Rental Housing Award for the creation of affordable rental developments by the new construction of Sawmill Landing and for fostering partnerships to provide safe, decent, affordable rental housing. By conducting a housing inventory and assessment survey, the Pembroke GICH team identified a need for adequate workforce housing for new industry development in Bryan County and, in part, due the city’s proximity to Fort Stewart Army Base and Hunter Army Field whose troops and support personnel need affordable housing. Currently under construction, Sawmill Landing will include 60 townhome units, 30 three-bedroom units, 21 two-bedroom units, and nine one-bedroom units.

The City of Washington was recognized with the Community Outreach and Engagement Award for the Hands on Washington program created to address revitalization and community development needs. The program employed creative use of media and other forms of promotion, participation of volunteers, and creative partnerships that resulted in housing improvements and community revitalization. Hands on Washington assists with essential exterior repairs and rehabilitation of owner-occupied properties for those struggling with poverty in Wilkes County. The organization is currently partnering with local agencies, authorities, churches, businesses, and civic organizations, as well as skilled contractors, who provide volunteer labor.

The City of Thomasville was honored for its Victoria Place redevelopment with the Homeownership Award which recognizes achievement in construction of new affordable housing; renovation or redevelopment of housing for home ownership; counseling programs to assist low- and moderate-income homebuyers; mortgage finance opportunities; or other innovative programs or partnerships that promote affordable homeownership. Since 2010, the City has promoted infill housing development, rehabilitation and reinvestment while addressing public infrastructure deficiencies and blighted, unsightly and hazardous private property conditions through the Victoria Place development.

The Cities of Gainesville and Vienna were both recognized with the Neighborhood Revitalization Award, based on community size. The award highlights projects and partnerships directed toward revitalizing or redeveloping existing neighborhoods or communities. Achievements could include the use of new or existing tools such as code enforcement, land banks, revitalization plans, housing assessments, renovation of owner-occupied homes and/or demolition of dilapidated structures, or an increase in affordable housing options.

Vienna took home the award for a community with fewer than 5,000 residents for its execution of a three-point approach toward revitalization. The approach included aggressive steps against blight in Vienna’s neighborhoods by revisiting the City’s code and making necessary changes; determining the condition of existing housing stock; and looking for ways to assist owners of substandard and near-substandard properties in making improvements to their homes. Since 2009, Vienna has demolished 16 dilapidated homes, removed or demolished 21 substandard mobile homes, and had 36 junked vehicles removed. The approach has resulted in providing property that is now available for infill construction, in the creation of two recycling stations, and in residents taking an active role in keeping their own communities clean. An additional 27 homes have been or are on the schedule to be reconstructed or rehabilitated using Community HOME Investment Program (CHIP) Grant funds.

Gainesville was honored as a community with more than 30,000 residents for its neighborhood revitalization efforts. Since becoming a GICH community, it has been the goal of the Gainesville Housing Initiative to strengthen the quality of life through coordinated and sustained efforts to: improve housing conditions, create housing opportunities, and connect people to housing resources. Such focus has transformed Gainesville’s approach of using State and Federal grant funds to address housing needs scattered throughout the City into a coordinated, concentrated approach implemented on a street-by-street and neighborhood scale. A few of the many examples of the effectiveness of Gainesville’s efforts include the awarding of $1,000,000 in HOME funds to build new affordable housing units; code enforcement activities which resulted in 15,494 cases started and 15,318 property owners complied, 176 citations issued, 42 substandard homes demolished and 17 homes remodeled through owner compliance; and support for affordable rental housing through the development of Myrtle Terraces, an 84-unit, housing tax credit complex designed specifically for senior citizens.

The City of Rome was recognized with the Community Transformation Award highlighting innovative neighborhood revitalization by incorporating the GICH team plan with creative partnerships that improve educational opportunities within the community, provide transportation options, increase retail development and incorporate walk-ability — which together improve the overall quality of life for residents. With more than $60 million in investments from Rome, Floyd County and other sources since 1982, the accomplishments include the construction of the Floyd County Health Department, the Boys and Girls Club, the Etowah Village LIHTC multi-family senior complex, the Pennington Place multi-family rental complex in partnership with the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority, the Ann K. Davie Elementary School, the Silver Creek Trail, and the Kingfisher Trail and Bridge; the rehabilitation of 58 owner-occupied homes; and the improvement to the S. Broad Street Corridor streetscape.

The City of Covington was honored with the Housing Innovation Award for its Walkers Bend neighborhood redevelopment efforts. This award recognizes achievements in neighborhood stabilization through the creative redesign of partially-developed, abandoned and subdivided tracts. Recognizable innovations include re-development plans that reflect the principles of quality growth; mixed uses that meet the needs of the target market; rental and homeownership options for affordable housing; and green space. The City took a proactive and innovative approach to address a failed 50-acre, 240-single family unit development, less than a mile from the town square. Caught in the housing bubble that resulted in a bankrupt developer and three failed banks, only 80 of the proposed 240 units had been constructed with only 50 sold.

In 2009 the Covington City Council approved an urban redevelopment plan that included Walker’s Bend and created the Covington Redevelopment Authority to oversee the implementation of the redesign of this community to include multi-use, mixed income, EarthCraft developments with more usable green space.

GICH is a collaboration of partners including: the University of Georgia’s Housing and Demographics Research Center, a unit of the Department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences; UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach; the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; and the Georgia Municipal Association. The GICH program is funded by Georgia Power as well as the USDA, through a Rural Community Development Initiative grant. Additional in-kind services are provided by UGA’s Archway Partnership and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, both units of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach, and the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation.

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About the Georgia Department of Community Affairs:
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) partners with communities to create a climate of success for Georgia’s families and businesses through community and economic development, local government assistance, and safe and affordable housing. Using state and federal resources, DCA helps communities spur private job creation, implement planning, develop downtowns, generate affordable housing solutions, and promote volunteerism. DCA also helps qualified low- and moderate-income Georgians buy homes, rent housing, and prevent foreclosure and homelessness. For more information, visit www.dca.ga.gov.

CONTACT:
Jana Wiggins, Director of Marketing & Communications
Georgia Department of Community Affairs
(o) 404-679-0661; (c) 770-883-7971

Karen Tinsley, GICH Program Director
The University of Georgia
(o) 706-542-4949

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