Georgia awards first state grants for affordable housing

By David Pendered

Oct. 1 – For the first time, Georgia has awarded state grants to support the development of affordable housing in rural parts of the state.

Georgia has awarded a total of $8.37 million to five communities: City of Albany, $923,513; City of Colquitt, $2.4 million; Columbus Consolidated Government, $2.3 million; Douglas Coffee County Industrial Authority, $2.3 million, Stephens County Development Authority, $478,400. Details on the use of funds are at the end of this story.

The money is to come through the state’s OneGeorgia Authority and is funded with proceeds of Georgia’s share of the national settlement agreement with four tobacco companies. The 1998 agreement calls for perpetual funding, as long as cigarettes are sold in the receiving states, to offset health care costs associated with smoking-related illnesses.

Gov. Brian Kemp

Georgia is using a portion of the tobacco settlement to support Georgians and counties outside the relatively strong economy of metro Atlanta. The outreach is part of the effort to address the income loss associated with the decline in tobacco farming. Georgia’s tobacco farm acreage has dropped by about 70 percent in the 20 years from 1997 to 2017, according to a report by the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, based on Census data.

Gov. Brian Kemp called for establishing the Rural Workforce Housing Initiative in his January State of the State address. The governor proposed putting $35.7 million into the program. The Legislature approved the project, which is overseen by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Details of Kemp plan are available here.

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce this year endorsed state support for what some business leaders call workforce housing. The state’s largest business organization included rural affordable housing in its 2023 legislative agenda, citing a need “to ensure communities across the state can attract and retain talent.”

Georgia has long induced rural economic development in an effort to provide jobs across the state. The task has become more difficult as housing costs have increased and cost estimates for business relocation or expansion pay greater attention to the housing market their employees will encounter in a community.

In a statement, Kemp said of the grants:

  • “On the back of three straight record-breaking years for economic development, we are taking action to ensure hardworking Georgians are able to live in the same communities where they work,” said Governor Brian Kemp. “These grants are the first step in meeting the needs of communities experiencing incredible growth as we continue to see new opportunities come to all corners of the state. I want to thank the members of the General Assembly who supported this initiative so that we can continue that upward trajectory.”

In the statement, DCA Commissioner Christopher Nunn said;

  • “In an effort to ensure Georgia’s growing workforce have quality and affordable housing options, the OneGeorgia Authority is please to support these local communities in attaining their housing goals. We look forward to continuing to help communities that are pursuing deliverate workford housing initiatives.”

The five communities to receive grants and details of the planned use of funds was provided verbatim by the DCA:

The map of counties eligible for funding from the OneGeorgia Authority are in dark green. Counties in light green may be eligible and the counties in gray are ineigible. (Credit: DCA)

City of Albany

  • The City of Albany will receive an infrastructure grant for $923,513 to improve water, sewer, drainage, and roads. It will facilitate the creation of Gillionville Woods Subdivision with 29 single-family homes on six acres of land within the city limits. The City of Albany is contributing ten percent of the total project costs, and the developer – Coleson LLC – is contributing fifteen percent of the infrastructure costs.

City of Colquitt

  • The City of Colquitt will receive an infrastructure grant for $2.4 million for water and sewer on 23 acres of land in the Legacy of Colquitt Subdivision. The development will bring 49 single-family homes to the area, and the enhanced infrastructure will also support a nearby 44-unit multi- family housing development. The expanded water and sewer capacity will also allow for additional development nearby and will support the area’s hospital. The City of Colquitt is contributing $100,000 towards infrastructure costs, and Vorsight Development is their partner.

Columbus Consolidated Government

  • The government will receive an infrastructure grant for $2.3 million for water, sewer, drainage, and street improvements, enabling the completion of Phase 2 and future phases of the Elliott’s Walk development. Phase 2 adds 24 new, single-family homes in addition to 18 homes built in its first phase. Columbus previously invested $1.6 million in infrastructure, which will be extended by this investment. NeighborWorks Columbus, a local Community Development Financial Institution, is the local development partner.

Douglas Coffee County Industrial Authority

  • The Authority will receive an infrastructure grant for $2.3 million for water, sewer, drainage, and street improvements to facilitate the construction of 65 homes in a new subdivision near several large employers. The City of Douglas is contributing $698,558, and Douglas Coffee County Industrial Authority is contributing $56,470. Harper & Company Builders is the local development partner.

Stephens County Development Authority

  • The Authority will receive a $478,400 infrastructure grant to build a sanitary sewer lift station, which will allow the construction of 318 housing units in a new development near a regional industrial park that is set to expand. The City of Toccoa and Stephens County are contributing $125,000 each for this project with a local company, Shah Developers.
Georgia is subsidizing construction of affordable homes for future workers of greenfield developments, such as the Rivian site in Morgan County. (File/Credit: David Pendered)