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Thomasville and Rome Stand Out in Affordable Housing and Project Innovation

March 9, 2016
Before and after photos of the city of Rome’s Pennington Place, a multi-family rental complex.
The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) program recently recognized eight cities with awards for their efforts to increase affordable housing and to revitalize their communities. Located on opposite corners of the west side of the state, the cities of Thomasville and Rome were two of the honorees. But their awards were just a glimpse into what it truly takes to be a successful GICH community.
 
According to Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) Deputy Commissioner for Housing Carmen Chubb, GICH has facilitated progress toward housing stability in 55 Georgia communities over the past decade, adding that GICH participants are outstanding examples of affordable housing developments and innovations.
 
As an inaugural GICH program community beginning in 2005, the city of Thomasville was honored with the GICH Homeownership award in October 2015. The community has promoted infill housing development, rehabilitation and reinvestment while addressing public infrastructure deficiencies and blighted private property conditions through the Victoria Place development.
 
Housing Administrator Charlotte Christian emphasized that one of the most important goals of the Victoria Place redevelopment plan was to incorporate the existing historic homes and to establish new house design that enhances and blends with the original character and architecture of the area.
 
Additional infrastructure includes new curb and gutter, a new street, rear alleyways, improved storm water drainage and utility installations. The city’s new multi-use community trail runs directly through the neighborhood, providing a connection to downtown businesses as well as parks, civic spaces and a new amphitheater.
 
So far, eight new owner-occupied homes have been built, including six by Habitat for Humanity, one Community Housing Improvement Program (CHIP)-funded reconstruction and one by the Thomasville-Thomas County Land Bank Authority. Eight of the original homeowners have received assistance in renovating their houses with CHIP grant funding, and five new home buyers have received down payment assistance with CDBG funding. Christian adds that this investment in the neighborhood has fostered significant private investment, with another eight historic homes receiving large-scale renovations within the Victoria Place area.
 
The Thomasville-Thomas County Land Bank Authority currently has 25 lots within Victoria Park that are available for purchase. To aid in the creation of new affordable housing, the Land Bank and its many partners are seeking a developer/builder or individual buyers to construct homes. Find out more about the community of Victoria Park at www.livevictoriapark.com.
 
Rome Focuses on Transforming the Community
At the October 2015 GICH celebration, the city of Rome was recognized with the Community Transformation Award highlighting innovative neighborhood revitalization that improves educational opportunities within the community, provides transportation options, increases retail development and incorporates walk-ability.
 
“The city of Rome had a unique vision for neighborhood redevelopment in the South Rome area in the late 1990s, and this vision continues to evolve today into a complete neighborhood transformation,” said Rome Community Development Director Bekki Fox. “Important partnerships were established with the South Rome Redevelopment Agency and the South Rome Redevelopment Corporation which aided in the results that are so obvious today.”
 
Among the success stories of community transformation in South Rome is the South Rome Boys and Girls Club, which was built with a combination of CDBG funds and through a SPLOST. Located on the main corridor through South Rome and just a couple of blocks from Davie Elementary, the club, along with the school, help meet the goal of community revitalization through educational opportunities.
 
Pennington Place, a multi-family rental complex, is another example of good community teamwork. This housing development was due to a partnership between the city of Rome and the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority (NWGHA). The site was acquired, demolished and reconstructed using CHIP and Housing Authority funds. NWGHA now owns and manages this site, which maintains a 100-percent occupancy rate.
 
“For a city government, there are few endeavors more challenging or more rewarding than going through the process of redeveloping portions of your community,” said Rome City Manager Sammy Rich. “The South Rome redevelopment process has been an awesome experience that started from a city’s desire to redevelop a neighborhood that led to creation of some spectacular public-private partnerships that still exist and flourish today.”
 
Rich added that years of planning and strategic public investment have started to pay dividends as private investment has followed suit and that the city seeks to take lessons learned and apply to other neighborhoods within Rome that need redevelopment opportunities.
 
GICH is a collaboration of partners including the University of Georgia, the Georgia DCA and GMA. The GICH program is funded by Georgia Power and the USDA, through a Rural Community Development Initiative grant. Additional in-kind services are provided by UGA and the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation.
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