Villa Rica is among seven cities in the state that will be enrolled in a state program designed help towns across Georgia improve housing and beautify their communities.
The city was notified late last week that it had qualified for the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) program, a highly sought-after designation that, over the next three years, will help the city develop housing strategies for neighborhood revitalization and seek out affordable developments for elderly, disabled, and moderate-income households.
“The City has worked through two years and a pandemic to successfully qualify for this program,” said Chris Montesinos, the city’s Director of Special Projects. “The dedication of our elected officials and Community Housing Team members has been invaluable to his process. “
The GICH program is run by the University of Georgia and the state Department of Community Affairs. According to Montesinos, the city had applied for the program last year but narrowly missed out on final selection.
GICH is a three-year program. after which the City and affordable housing developers within the city all receive additional incentives and bonus points toward state affordable housing programs, including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), Community Home Investment Program (CHIP), and annual access to the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.
The six other Georgia cities selected this year will be announced later this month during a conference in Tifton, Georgia.
Villa Rica, like other communities in Carroll and Douglas counties, is facing a crisis in affordable housing,
The average home price in Villa Rica increased 43% over the past year, according to redfin.com, while the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the city jumped 21% since 2021, to $1,650 per month. Both these factors make finding affordable housing difficult in the city, especially since almost half the residents spend between a third or even half of their income on housing alone.
Of all the houses in the city, about 90 are currently for sale – but only six of those residences are under $225,000, according to redfin.com .
There are new residences under construction, but of course it takes time for such projects to proceed through the stages from planning to opening the doors.
Just last week, the first phase of The Legacy at Walton Trail opened its doors after months of construction on the Dallas Highway, across from Tanner Medical Center/VR. Those 90 units are part of a larger project that will replace the Old Town Homes units managed by the Villa Rica Housing Authority.
To kick off the GICH application process, the city had to create a community housing team and develop a target area that could be subject to the grants and other assistance for neighborhood rehabilitation available under the program.
The four neighborhoods selected for the target area are in the northwest part of the city, where more people need assistance in upgrading their older homes. The neighborhoods are Old Town-Susan Drive, Fullerville Mills, Anderson-Cleghorn and Thomas Dorsey.
Within those areas, the City and the housing team are interested in eliminating blighted areas, helping homeowners rehabilitate their houses, finding developers to build affordable or subsidized housing, as well as obtaining Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects that would benefit these neighborhoods.
The city will be looking for developers to build projects under the state’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credits program. Such subsidized housing has had a negative stereotype in years past, but as the Legacy at Walton Trail project rehabilitating Old Town Homes demonstrates, these developments nowadays represent multi-million-dollar investments. And, because these are usually built for seniors, the developments have no adverse impact on the local school system.
“We are very excited about the opportunity to become a GICH Alumni and the many benefits that it brings to the city, private developers, and our community partners,” Montesinos said. “The process will take some time to complete, but we are willing and committed as a community to ensure housing affordability remains a priority for current and future generations of households.”
press release provided by the City of Villa Rica