The City of Decatur is committed to expanding options to address the housing needs for a variety of income levels and age groups through all stages of life. The Decatur Housing Authority (DHA) does an excellent job of providing rental housing options for lower-income residents. Homestead exemptions targeting lower-income senior citizens and the MLK Service project helps older homeowners reduce costs and make needed home repairs.
Income-restricted programs use the average median income (AMI) for the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Decatur Housing Authority works with individuals and families making 60 percent or less of the AMI. We also know that it is increasingly difficult for middle class individuals and families to afford to live in our city. This group includes service workers like teachers, fire fighters and police officers who are vital to our community. Even though they make 80-100 percent of AMI, escalating home values make it hard for them to afford to live in Decatur.
The following table shows the income levels for various family sizes based on the percentage of the Atlanta area AMI, followed by a description of City of Decatur programs available to help make housing more affordable.
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Decatur Housing Authority (DHA)
The DHA was established in 1938. Its mission is to support the strength and diversity of the Decatur community by providing a wide range of housing opportunities with a focus on affordable housing, promoting community and economic development, and administering the program in a creative, cooperative, responsive and effective manner. The DHA provides more than 400 rental apartment units at various locations in the city that offer quality housing opportunities targeting individuals and families making 80 percent or less of the Atlanta AMI. DHA also provides 75 work force rental units at market rates. DHA has also developed for-sale residential developments including two market-rate townhouse developments which include several affordable housing units, one single-family home development that targeted middle income, first-time home buyers, and the 90-unit Talley Street Lofts community.
Lifecycle Density Bonus Program
Developers of multi-family developments may take advantage of a 20 percent density bonus program that allows them to exceed established residential unit densities by 20 percent if 75 percent of these additional units are marketed to individuals and families making 80 percent of the median income. While this program is available for both for-sale condominiums and for-rent apartment developments, they are most successful in rental products that help assure long-term affordability. Developers identify the units that will be included in the program and establish a maximum occupancy rate and rental rate for these units. Currently, the Arlo apartment development is participating in this program and has 21 apartment units available for individuals and families who meet the 80 percent median income requirement. Please contact the leasing agent if you are interested in this program to see if you meet the income restrictions and unit availability.
Developments of smaller homes clustered around shared green space offer home ownership options for first-time buyers and empty nesters interested in downsizing. The Decatur Development Authority is currently developing a model project with six homes ranging in size from 468 to 1,100 square feet that will be marketed to employees of the City of Decatur and City Schools of Decatur through a lottery system. Ownership of the land will be retained through a community land trust and the houses will be sold to individuals who qualify. Homeowners will have a 99-year lease on the land and share in the maintenance of common areas through a homeowners association. The city plans to pursue more of these developments and target individuals and families making 80-to-100 percent of the median income. The city is also making it easier for private builders to develop similar cottage court developments with multiple small homes rather than one or two large houses. These homes offer a much-needed small-home option.
Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs)
In 2014, the City revised its zoning codes to reduce the minimum square footage for a home and make it easier to build accessory dwellings in single-family residential districts. These smaller units, generally located to the rear of a primary residence, create small rental housing opportunities in single-family neighborhoods and provide additional income to help cover mortgage payments for the homeowner. They also offer a housing option for aging parents, young adult children or caregivers to support aging in place. ADUs are allowed in all single-family residential zoning districts if lot size and setback requirements are met. City staff will assist single-family homeowners interested in pursuing ADUs on their properties.
Affordable Housing Policy Analysis
Since the adoption of the Unified Development Ordinance in 2014, the City has seen interest in the the construction of cottage courts, lifecycle dwelling units, and ADUs. However, the rate of implementation of these newly allowed building types hasn't taken off to the degree as originally desired. The question was asked, "why?" The City hired the consultant firm, Clark Consulting, to perform an affordable housing policy analysis to find out if the well-meaning codes were hindering the creation of these three types of housing, as well as, looking at how a local community land trust could help boost affordable housing. The full report prepared by Clark Consulting, along with recommendations to improve the codes, can be found here.
Martin Luther King Service Project
This community-supported program works with lower-income senior homeowners in Decatur to provide much-needed home repairs and energy-efficient upgrades, making it possible for them to age in place and remain in the community. Work ranges from simple repairs to projects that correct hazardous conditions and make a home more accessible for elderly residents. While the majority of this work is done during the month of January in honor of Dr. King’s birthday, assistance is provided throughout the year to address emergency repairs.
The basic homestead exemption reduces the property tax bill for owner-occupied housing. Additional homestead exemptions target lower-income homeowners and older homeowners to further reduce property tax bills to help make homeownership more affordable. In November, Decatur residents voted to approve five homestead exemptions that extended existing programs and added an additional program. For more information on Decatur homestead exemptions and how to apply, click here.