Down payment assistance program
Funds up to $5,000 are available to assist qualified homebuyers with down payment and closing costs associated with purchasing a home in Gainesville. If the homeowner lives in the home for six years as their primary residence, funds don’t have to be paid back.
More info: Housing Manager Chris Davis, 770-531-6581, firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the plan has been downsized, city officials and many members of the local community believe a better project is now in the works to build five homes on land between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Mill Street in Gainesville.
But Antioch Baptist Church will have to give its approval before the project can proceed.
City housing officials presented the latest proposal to build affordable homes with a $1 million grant to local residents at the church on Thursday night.
“I’m very excited about the project,” said Berlinda Lipscomb, a resident and local activist in the Fair Street neighborhood.
Gainesville Housing Manager Chris Davis said the original plan was to build seven homes at the site, but the city was unable to acquire all the land needed to do so.
So Davis, Housing Coordinator Theresa Dyer and Ed Myers, a local civil engineer, went back to the drawing board and came up with a design that incorporates more green space and privacy. The plan would benefit Antioch by improving a secondary parking lot it uses for Sunday services and other events.
Indeed, traffic and parking along Mill Street, where the church is located, is problematic. Several residents questioned what church leaders and city officials might do to address it.
Jerry Castleberry, for example, said that while he thinks the identified site is a good location to build affordable housing, he would prefer access to the homes to come from MLK rather than Mill Street, as proposed.
Dyer said the city prefers to have access to the homes come through the aforementioned parking lot on Mill Street, directly across from the church, because of safety concerns about traffic flowing in and out along MLK.
Pastor Rodney Lackey said traffic and parking is a problem regardless of whether the housing project goes forward, and that church leaders need to find a way to improve the situation.
“I just want to say to the community that I heard you,” he said.
Lackey said church leaders have discussed the housing project and soon will make a decision whether to grant the city the authority to pave the parking lot across from the church to use as access to the homes.
“We saw this as an opportunity to work together,” Davis told residents. “We don’t want to do something that’s going to impact you in a negative way.”
If the project moves forward, homes will be sold to buyers based on strict income limits, and will be priced between $70,000 and $80,000, city officials said.
Proceeds from sales of these homes will be pumped back into the city housing program and used to build more affordable projects.
Davis said the proposal on the table will help stabilize home ownership in the neighborhood and raise property values.
Just 35 percent of homes in Gainesville are owner-occupied, he added.
The Rev. Antoine Harris said the housing project can add great value to the local community, but its success will only be assured by finding the right tenants for the new homes.
“That’s the bottom line,” he added.