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Atlanta Street public housing residents struggle to find affordable homes with vouchers
Complex will be redeveloped with fewer public housing units, more affordable and market-rate units
Waitlist Management Coordinator Dwantia Starks of Georgia Community Affairs takes questions Wednesday from Green Hunter Homes residents during a meeting at the apartment complex community center. Residents began receiving vouchers in March that will allow them to get subsidized housing elsewhere, and all are likely to be relocated before the year ends.

Average fair market rent in Hall County

(cost includes utilities)

1 bedroom: $691

2 bedroom: $824

4 bedroom: $1,069

Source: Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Community Affairs

Note: Some 40 percent of properties would cost less, excluding public housing, substandard housing, units built in the past two years and some other properties.

The move from Atlanta Street is proving to be a mixed blessing for several single mothers.

“There are pros and cons,” Tarnisha Reid said.

Reid said she wanted to stay in Gainesville, but she’s headed to Flowery Branch with her kids instead.

Relocating from the Green Hunter Homes public housing complex is an opportunity for many to find a safer, more stable place to live. But it comes with a challenge.

In Gainesville, 65 percent of households rent, a ratio that is reversed statewide.

There simply aren’t enough affordable apartments available to meet demand.

The Gainesville Housing Authority has partnered with Marietta-based Walton Communities LLC to redevelop the Atlanta Street housing through a tax credit program.

Residents began receiving vouchers in March that will allow them to get subsidized housing elsewhere, and all are likely to be relocated before the year ends.

But for Celisa Tabor, the mother of three kids, finding a place locally that is covered by the voucher has been difficult. Tabor said Lawrenceville and Athens have been the only nearby cities where she has found something affordable.

“Who wants to have to move there?” she asked.

Karen Brackett and her daughter Chloe almost did.

Brackett said she was recently denied a place in Athens because her voucher wasn’t enough, and so she has decided to stay with the Housing Authority.

About 15 families have already been transferred to other properties owned by the Housing Authority.

Brackett said she was told a place in Harrison Square will be available in three weeks.

“I’m too old to be moving again,” she said. “I have to think about (my daughter’s) future.”

One measure has long defined affordability: whether you are spending 30 percent or more of your income on housing costs.

Beth Brown, executive director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, said she is working with local landlords to accept housing vouchers whose worth is based on this principle.  

Brown said all families should have vouchers now.

The 131-unit public housing projects on Atlanta Street in Gainesville will be demolished and replaced with more than 260 affordable and market-rate units.

Thirty-nine units will remain public housing, and about 20 percent overall will be priced at market rates.

Construction is likely to begin next year, and the new homes are anticipated to open in 2018.

Redevelopment plans stem from the fact that the conditions of the existing homes are substandard.

Tabor said she has no heat in her unit, among other problems.

But with a one-bedroom costing $691 at a fair market rate, and a two-bedroom costing $824, according to the Department of Community Affairs, the wait continues for many families.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Tabor said. “But I just can’t find a place.”