Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) celebrates a special milestone this week – 25 years of affordable housing development and advocacy. Past and current ANDP leaders say the organization’s most important accomplishments have been made possible because of its partnerships.
“Partnership is in our name and it drives our mission to create and preserve affordable housing throughout the region,” explains ANDP President & CEO John O’Callaghan. “From ANDP’s formation to present day, we succeed because of critically important public and private sector partners.
ANDP was created in 1991 as a nonprofit housing and community economic development corporation, resulting from the merger of the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce’s Housing Resource Center and the Atlanta Economic Development Corporation’s (AEDC) Neighborhood Development Department. It was this unique partnership that also gave the organization its name.
Founder and former President & CEO Hattie Dorsey recalls the days when the organization was created.
“For several years prior to Atlanta’s winning bid to host the 1996 Olympic Games I was outspoken about the need for attention to Atlanta’s declining neighborhoods,” said Dorsey.
“City and civic leaders realized that these Olympic venues were going to be built right in the heart of these troubled neighborhoods. There was concern that the world was coming to Atlanta – and much work was needed.”
The timing proved beneficial to Dorsey’s vision and efforts. Philanthropic, corporate, civic and nonprofit communities came together to support the organizational concept that became ANDP. Under Dorsey’s leadership, an aggressive plan was drafted to address neighborhood economic development and affordable housing. The plan received a vote of confidence in the form of a half-million dollar grant from The Ford Foundation to AEDC where Dorsey was forming the new organization. Additional support followed quickly from The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation and many other philanthropic and corporate partners.
“We never thought a single organization could do this important work on its own. We knew it would take partnerships – especially with Atlanta’s private sector. And they stood up to the challenge,” remarks Dorsey.
In Dorsey’s 15 years at ANDP, the organization played a major role in helping transform the landscape of community development in metropolitan Atlanta. Acting as a financial intermediary, ANDP awarded more than $15 million in grants to local community development corporations engaged in community economic development and affordable housing.
In the post-Olympic era, ANDP and its many partners worked to build on the momentum created. The organization advanced the mixed-income development concept in the region – releasing two major reports from its Mixed Income Communities Initiative in 2004 and 2007.
Dorsey retired in 2006 and handed the reins to Atlanta native John O’Callaghan, who was selected after a national search. O’Callaghan came to ANDP after 11 years with Fannie Mae and prior work at United Way and The American Red Cross. His governmental background includes Mayoral appointed positions with the City of Atlanta and elected service on the Fulton County Board of Commissioners and Atlanta City Council.
O’Callaghan joined ANDP at a particularly challenging time – the very moment the nation was besieged by the mortgage meltdown and ensuing Great Recession. Under his leadership, the organization shifted its focus to helping stabilize homeowners and neighborhoods hit hard by the foreclosure crisis.
In 2008, ANDP led a coalition of partners to advocate for an increase in the Atlanta/Fulton homestead exemption rate. The organization also commissioned research that demonstrated the degree to which homeowners were being overcharged in property taxes – given massive declines in home values during the crisis. ANDP’s research ultimately led to the passage of Georgia laws that required appraisers to factor in the impact of foreclosures on property tax levels.
As the foreclosure crisis grew into a protracted economic recession, matters worsened in metro Atlanta’s neighborhoods – urban and suburban. This proved an enormous setback after decades of work in affordable housing.
“We knew, as Hattie had demonstrated for so long, that we would need innovative partnerships to tackle the problem. We asked key local and national partners to work together to address the crisis regionally,” explained O’Callaghan
ANDP joined forces with the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC), Georgia DCA, the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association and others to host a regional conversation on how best to implement the first federal response to the crisis, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP). Nearly 200 local leaders came together to discuss strategies for implementing $70 million in recovery funds in metro Atlanta.
The seemingly large NSP budget was actually a drop in the bucket compared to the scope of the problem in metro Atlanta. Our region, frequently listed in the top five hardest hit U.S. metros during the crisis, saw more than 500,000 foreclosure notices from 2009 to 2015. Given the scale of the issue, ANDP felt that a greater partnership was needed to address the regional crisis.
ANDP recruited ARC, ClearPoint Counseling, Enterprise Community Partners, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, The Home Depot Foundation, and the National Housing Conference and NeighborWorks America to create the Piece by Piece Regional Foreclosure Response Initiative. The initiative assembled an additional 155 public- and private-sector partner organizations to help address the crisis. Piece by Piece Partners met annually to discuss neighborhood stabilization strategy with former HUD Secretaries Cisneros and Donovan and others. In 2015, Piece by Piece was recognized by the National Housing Conference with its Housing Visionary Award.
“The work continues,” explained O’Callaghan. “Foreclosure rates have fallen to pre-crisis levels and many neighborhoods have rebounded and are doing very well economically. But not all areas are experiencing the same housing recovery. We have much work to do to make our neighborhoods whole again.”
More than half of the region’s zip codes are struggling with negative equity. These homeowners owe more on their homes than they are worth on the market. Being underwater in a mortgage effectively takes them out of the market for new home purchases and eliminates family wealth that is so important for college tuition, home repairs and much more.”
During the crisis, ANDP has acquired and redeveloped more than 550 units of affordable housing – the vast majority of which were single-family homes left vacant, creating blight and negatively impacting neighborhood home values.
“The issues of neighborhood stabilization and affordable housing are an ongoing challenge – one that will need continued attention. Our region is fortunate to be home to a number of Fortune 500 firms that offer competitive salaries. But it’s also home to a large service sector that needs affordable housing for its employees. We will continue to strive to build partnerships that tackle affordable housing issues in our region.”
As a result of 25 years of partnerships in development and lending, ANDP has impacted 11, 285 units of housing, supporting the housing needs of 28,212 residents.