Housing is a foundational component of community development. Having places that families can call home anchors them in the community and stabilizes core areas of life. Charis Community Housing, a mixed-income housing program empowered by Focused Community Strategies (FCS), entered Historic South Atlanta with a mission to transform the underserved neighborhood into a vibrant community where families flourish. Through intentional neighboring, strategic partnering and sustainable home ownership, Charis has been working block by block and street by street to bring laughter, livelihood and leadership back into the neighborhood.
Following years of neglect, Historic South Atlanta was in desperate need of a new day. The community had been devastated by predatory lending, foreclosures, general vacancies and a high percentage of rental housing. A staggering 80 percent of the community’s 532 homes were rentals – creating disconnect and disparity between the people who actually lived in the community and the landlords who lived elsewhere. On top of the existing housing crisis, Historic South Atlanta fell on ever harder times when the housing market crashed in 2008. Without the support of individuals invested in the neighborhood’s overall well-being, the community was destined for further disrepair.
Recognizing the need for revitalization and stability in Historic South Atlanta, a small group of the community’s residents appealed to FCS for assistance, and a partnership was born in 2001 through the Charis program. FCS began with a comprehensive master housing plan for the community’s redevelopment and a strategic approach to intentional neighboring – inviting specific homeowners and tenants into the neighborhood to act as agents of change for the community.
Through Charis, FCS then partnered with these neighborhood leaders to help shift the neighborhood’s housing stock from low income housing to affordable housing to market rate housing while at the same time, shifting from majority rental to majority homeownership. By providing active support and guidance to flip Historic South Atlanta’s 80 percent rental rate to 70 percent homeownership, Charis, along with key partners, has created a sustainable mixed income community featuring multiple types of housing.
The initial eight-year plan for the neighborhood was extended when the housing market crashed in 2008, and FCS recognized the need to prevent any further damage to the progress that Charis had already made. The commitment to change for Historic South Atlanta has never wavered. Through Charis working side by side with community members and strategically partnering with other nonprofit organizations, the neighborhood’s new day is on the horizon.
Since 2001, more than $11.5 million has been invested in commercial and residential development that has impacted this neighborhood of 532 homes. To date, Charis has directly impacted 119 properties, or 22 percent of the community’s housing stock, and created some of the best housing opportunities in the neighborhood in more than 50 years.
Another 10 homes are currently undergoing renovation as Charis’ work in Historic South Atlanta continues today. The neighborhood is still recovering from the crash of the housing market, but even in the face of great adversity, it is easy to see the strength of the community growing as the ongoing momentum and revitalization continues.