Backyard ATL is an innovative development model that builds affordable housing on land that would not otherwise serve the community. Backyard ATL designs and builds Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs), which are small (up to 750 square feet) detached, residential structures typically located behind the primary residences on single-family lots. ADUs are fully functioning living spaces that include their own kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom facilities. ADUs are often built as extensions of a primary residence.
Backyard ATL’s model effectively creates two units of affordable housing for every ADU built, including the backyard owned rental unit and the preservation of the principal residence. The model supports additional density in low to moderate income communities without displacing existing homeowners, allowing existing residents to reap the benefits of neighborhood improvement.
The demonstration project is a collaboration with Focused Community Strategies (FCS), a community development organization in South Atlanta. Historic South Atlanta, where the project is being developed, has a rich history of higher education, performing arts and community development.
It was home to Clark University and Gammon Theological Seminary for more than sixty years and was influenced by some of the most important Black families, university and seminary professors and concert artists of that time. However, in 1941, the university and seminary relocated to the West End of Atlanta and the community began experiencing a decline. Today, the average household income in South Atlanta is $23,166, and 35% of the residents make less than $15,000/year.
In 2018, the community adopted a new master plan for the neighborhood and re-zoning efforts are already underway. The community has been proactive in advocating for density in their neighborhood, and ADUs were the main example used as an effective method for increasing density without displacing existing residents.
Reinvestment Fund and ANDP are providing a construction loan for the project which will enable Backyard ATL to build three ADUs on properties owned by FCS, thanks to amended zoning in the neighborhood. Backyard ATL plans to hold and rent both units with the option for the homeowner to purchase the ADU at any moment. The ADU rents will be affordable to households earning up to 80% of the area median income (AMI) for the duration of the loan term. In addition, rent will include utilities, high-speed internet, and washers/ dryers. The targeted rental tenants for each ADU are expected to meet the housing cost needs of teachers, firefighters, and police officers.
Backyard ATL’s model offers a no-cost solution that covers the design, financing, and construction of an affordable rental unit on a homeowner’s lot. This feature provides access to wealth creation for homeowners who might not otherwise have the capital to build an ADU on their own. Over the next five years, Backyard ATL expects to scale their capacity as developers and work to develop 250 ADU units per year. The ADUs will be rented between 60%-80% of AMI, with a focus on low-to-moderate income communities. Backyard ATL has developed relationships with several local nonprofit community development organizations to help build pipeline, identify investors, and engender local community trust. Partners include Focused Community Strategies, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, Atlanta Land Trust, LISC Atlanta, and the Atlanta Affordable Housing Fund.
Photo credit: eightvillage