AHA was formed on May 18, 1938. The first meeting of its Board of Commissioners was held on June 11, 1938 with five commissioners. Charles F. Palmer, an Atlanta real estate developer, was appointed as the first Chairman of the Board.
Prior to the creation of AHA, Palmer and Dr. John Hope, an influential African-American educator and pivotal leader in the Civil Rights movement, worked closely together to find a solution to end slum housing in Atlanta. In October 1933, their efforts to convince the Roosevelt Administration were successful - the federal government approved funding for the construction of two public housing developments: Techwood Homes, adjacent to Georgia Tech, and University Homes, adjacent to the Atlanta University Center. In November 1935, President Roosevelt dedicated Techwood Homes, the first public housing development in the nation.
Soon afterward, Congress passed the Housing Act of 1937, which enabled state and local jurisdictions to create housing authorities. So, in 1938, AHA was created, and in 1940, AHA completed the construction of its first public housing community, John Hope Homes In the early years of public housing, Atlanta served as a successful model that other metropolitan cities would follow.
Unfortunately, as the years passed, deteriorating conditions in public housing became a national problem and an especially serious one for Atlanta. By the early 1990s, AHA’s public housing projects had become warehouses of poverty and crime, where the fragile – women and children, as well as the elderly and disabled – were victimized by predators who sought refuge there. Living conditions were deplorable and many units were uninhabitable. AHA was on the verge of HUD receivership. Complicating matters even further was the fact that Atlanta had been named host of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.
With bipartisan support and driven by the action plan drafted by the National Commission on Severely Distressed Public Housing, Congress created the Urban Revitalization Demonstration Program in 1992, later renamed HOPE VI. The HOPE VI program created a political and regulatory environment for housing agencies in which innovation, new thinking, and partnerships between real estate professionals, private sector developers and investors were poised to transform public housing.
In 1993, AHA was awarded a HOPE VI grant for the revitalization of Techwood Homes and Clark Howell Homes. Leveraging the full value of this HOPE VI grant, AHA implemented a strategic solution that would mark the beginning of a new paradigm that would rid Atlanta of dysfunctional public housing projects. Garnering support from former President Jimmy Carter, AHA implemented the Olympic Legacy Program in 1994 to provide education, job training, and job placement for public housing assisted residents through partnerships with educational institutions and businesses.
In addition, the Olympic Legacy Program would become the genesis of a national housing model. This innovative model would establish the financial and legal framework for mixed-finance transactions that would facilitate the development of quality mixed-income residential communities with a seamless affordable component. The goal of this financial and legal model is to help public housing families move from distressed, obsolete, dysfunctional public housing projects located in isolated neighborhoods to healthier, mixed-income, deconcentrated environments. Centennial Place would be the first community to be developed using this model.
In 1996, with the support of The Integral Partnership of Atlanta, AHA broke ground on the first phase of Centennial Place, which would become the nation’s first master-planned, mixed-income, mixed-use community. On the grounds of the former Techwood Homes and Clark Howell Homes, Centennial Place would be developed in four phases that would include residential rental units with a percentage set aside for low-income families, townhomes for sale at varying price points, and many of the amenities that make communities desirable, including a high-performing elementary school, a full-service family YMCA, a bank, a police precinct, commercial office space, and retail outlets.
As a result of AHA’s innovative revitalization program, AHA, in partnership with private real estate developers, has created sixteen master-planned, mixed-use, mixed-income communities on the sites of former public housing projects. These communities include a seamless affordable housing component where residents can thrive and access jobs and other resources that support their journey toward self-sufficiency.
In 2001, AHA, a high performing agency, was selected by HUD to participate in the Moving to Work (MTW) Demonstration Program and entered into its first MTW agreement in 2003. As a participant in this demonstration program, AHA has the financial, legal and regulatory flexibility to (1) implement local solutions that increase the availability of quality affordable housing, (2) promote human development and economic self-sufficiency strategies aimed at improving the lives of low-income families, and (3) optimize AHA’s effectiveness in achieving its goals and maximize its financial soundness and viability.
Today, AHA is a national leader in providing affordable housing solutions for low-income families. Through its Housing Choice tenant-based voucher program and other affordable housing solutions such as the AHA-designed Project Based Rental Assistance Program implemented using its MTW flexibility, AHA is serving more families and offering them broader housing choices in the private rental market. In addition, AHA is working with the families it serves to broaden their opportunities to become more self-sufficient through a variety of human development services.