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Gainesville partners with state to provide affordable housing
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A partnership between the state and Gainesville made way for the Northwestern Cottages to be built. They were sold for $134,900 each. - photo by David Barnes

Four families are enjoying new homes at affordable prices in Gainesville thanks to a partnership between the city and state.

The city — through the Gainesville Non-Profit Development Foundation — provided land, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs awarded a $1 million grant to make the dream of homeownership possible.

To qualify for the program, buyers had to meet strict income limits.

Mary Smith, a real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway, said the four houses built through the program sold relatively quickly. She said all four homes with three bedrooms and two bathrooms sold for $134,900 — approximately $100,000 less than the median listing price of homes in Hall County.

“They are very popular at that price,” Smith said of the affordable homes called Northwestern Cottages at the 2400 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near Fair Street.

Samanta Carvalho, with the state-run Community Home Investment Program, said the Northwestern Cottages were partially funded with federal funds received by DCA and awarded to Gainesville in 2014.

Carvalho said the city spent about half of the $1 million grant to build the four houses.

“The remaining balance will be spent on additional homes to be built,” Carvalho said.

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The front entrance to the Northwestern Cottages is shown on Friday in Gainesville. - photo by David Barnes

The last of the four homes built was completed earlier this year.

The Gainesville Non-Profit Development Foundation, an organization founded in 1971 with a mission to eliminate slums, purchase and develop land, and improve living conditions in Gainesville, played a lead role in the city-state partnership that made the Northwestern Cottages project possible.

During a period of five years from 2012 through 2016 the state awarded Gainesville $2.65 million in Low Income Housing Tax Credits to address the shortage of affordable homes in the area, according to DCA spokeswoman MaryBrown Sandys.

One of the housing projects to benefit from those tax credits is Myrtle Terraces — 84 age-restricted units at 1326 Myrtle St. — within a qualified census tract where poverty rates are 20 percent or higher. The tax credits are also helping to develop phase one of the Atlanta Street project currently under construction, as well as phase two of that project.

The Atlanta Street project is a partnership between Gainesville Housing Authority and private developer Walton Communities. Phase one will add a total of 84 units, of which 65 will be for low-income families. The remainder of the units will be offered at a market rate.

Phase two of the Atlanta Street project will add 90 units, including 70 for low-income families, Sandys said.

Shawn Williams, director of the rental assistance division at DCA, which runs the Housing Choice Voucher program, told The Times last week that the housing and rental shortage is a national problem.

‘It’s a situation that’s occurring  throughout a lot of cities in a lots of states, not just Georgia,” Williams said. “There’s always a need for affordable housing.”

The scarcity of affordable housing will continue to beset the housing market through at least the end of this year and into 2018, according to Lawrence Yun, the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors.

“Unfortunately, housing supply is too low and prices keep going higher,”  Yun said earlier this summer while making his midyear housing forecast. “These affordability challenges will likely remain into next year as long as inventory fails to pick up.”

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