Churches, places of worship to aid with new affordable housing initiative in Atlanta – 11Alive.com WXIA

Mayor Andre Dickens said it’s a unique solution to a common problem: many people simply can’t afford to live in Atlanta.

ATLANTA — Even during his campaign, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said affordable housing would be one of his top priorities. On Wednesday, he said the faith community is helping him build on that commitment.

He announced a new grant to build 1,000 affordable housing units in the city. Dickens said this is just the first step. The money will help 15 different faith-based organizations build affordable housing on church property.

And while it’s just the beginning, the mayor said it’s meaningful for people who live here.

“Atlanta’s faith community is one of the strongest and most visible. Everyone knows that Atlanta is the home of 10,000 or more churches,” said Dickens.

While he said there’s not a shortage of churches in Atlanta, there is a shortage of affordable housing for people who live here.

“During the pandemic, our houses of worship stepped into the gap. Now we are calling on leaders of the faith community to build permanently affordable housing,” he said. 

Dickens said it’s a unique solution to a common problem: many people simply can’t afford to live in Atlanta.

Leaders who work for Wells Fargo joined the mayor on stage to announce a $1.3 million grant for 15 different faith-based organizations to develop plans for affordable housing on property the churches already own in the city.

Not all of the organizations have been named yet, but the mayor said the new affordable developments could be anywhere in the metro.

He said this money will help the places of worship to create realistic goals for the new housing.

“Churches have the land, but often they don’t have the money to draw the plans, do the environmental study, do the predevelopment work. So you have an asset here in land, and borrowing power, and grant power, but just to get started is always really difficult for churches,” he said. 

Mayor Dickens’s bigger goal is to create 20,000 affordable housing units in the city over the next 8 years.

 Faith leaders say the need for affordable housing in Atlanta has been clear within their houses of worship for years – and in 2002 – one local church decided to do something about it.

“It was a 20 years journey. Sometimes up, sometimes down, sometimes level to the ground, my church people know what I mean,” said Dr. William Flippen, the senior pastor at Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church. 

He recognized the need for affordable housing for the senior citizens in his church two decades ago.

“It was my vision over 20 years ago, when gentrification was really taking hold, seniors were not able to pay their taxes. And with us having 52 acres of land… I thought, why not provide housing for them and have them near the church,” he said.

Greater Piney Grove Church built the units on its own property, with a commitment to keep the rent low for everyone who lived there.

The housing they built on their property has served as the inspiration for other houses of worship developing affordable housing within city limits.

 Wells Fargo is helping churches with the grant money to start doing that work – and Dr. Flippen says it can’t happen fast enough.

“The apartments are there, they’re beautiful, but the only thing that concerns me greatly, is there’s a 6 year waiting list. We need housing, Mayor,” he said. 

These 1,000 units will all be on church land – but the mayor says he’s committed to developing affordable housing on city owned property as well.

He’s hopeful churches will eventually build 2,000 units – he wants the city to build 18,000 more.