Original Development of DHA's Major Housing Communities
DHA owns and manages several different forms of affordable and workforce housing in Decatur. The history of each of the major housing communities is described below.
Allen Wilson Terrace Community: The Decatur Housing Authority has an outstanding record of development of innovative subsidized and non-subsidized affordable housing projects and loan/grant programs that have had major impacts on the growth and prosperity of the City of Decatur and DeKalb County. The first major activity of the Decatur Housing Authority included the initial development of the Allen Wilson Terrace community. Possibly the best description of the context of the neighborhood and the Allen Wilson Terrace community can be provided by the State Historical Marker placed in the Beacon Hill neighborhood in February 1998.
The Beacon Community
The Beacon Community was the center of Decatur's African American community until its demolition by the Urban Renewal programs of the mid-1960s. Bounded by N. McDonough Street on the east, West Trinity Place on the north, Water Street on the west, and Howard Avenue to the south, the area included a tight-knit residential community, schools, and churches in addition to numerous African American owned businesses. Atlanta Avenue once connected Trinity Place West (formerly Herring Street) and Howard Avenue and was the center of the African American business district. Tyler Funeral Home is the only remaining business.
The buildings on this site once housed Beacon Elementary and Trinity High School. They served African American children until 1967 when the integration of the Decatur School System was completed. These schools replaced the Herring Street School that served the community from 1913 to 1956. The Allen Wilson Terrace Public Housing Project constructed in 1941, was named for the first African American School principal in Decatur. These school buildings, Lilly Hill Baptist Church, the former Trinity Presbyterian Church on Robin Street and the Allen Wilson Terrance project are the only remaining buildings dating to the early years of this neighborhood.
The Beacon Community was home to Henry Oliver, a business owner and resident who was honored in 1902 with a local street named for him. In 1983, the street name was changed to Commerce Drive and his name was given to a meeting room in the new Decatur Conference Center. It was also home to Deacon J.H. Ebster for whom Ebster Park was named; Federal Court Judge Clarence Cooper and Elizabeth Wilson, Decatur's first African American city commissioner and mayor.
City of Decatur Marker - February 1998
Allen Wilson Terrace (originally located at 1450 Commerce Drive, Decatur) was a 200-unit public housing development built and occupied in 1941. The development consisted of 21 single story row-style buildings, comprised of one-, two- and three-bedroom units, located on 7.68 acres in the heart of the city of Decatur. Many low to moderate income families raised their children in Allen Wilson Terrace. Decatur's First African American Mayor, Mayor Emeritus Elizabeth Wilson, lived here and notes with pride her stay in DHA's housing. DHA undertook a full revitalization of the Allen Wilson Terrace community between 2008 and 2014 to create a new and dynamic community called Allen Wilson that consisted of 191 units described more fully below. DHA converted this community under the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD) in 2019 and it is operated as a Project Based Rental Assistance community. This revitalization appears elsewhere on this website.
Swanton Heights Community: DHA's second major community, Swanton Heights, was constructed as public housing in 1968. It is comprised of 98 units that extended DHA's ability to provide affordable housing to more of Decatur's low-income families. DHA converted this community under the Rental Assistance Demonstration Program (RAD) in 2019 and it is operated as a Project Based Rental Assistance community. This revitalization effort is described elsewhere on this website.
Gateway Manor: Gateway Manor was a Section 8 Substantial Rehabilitation Project of 112 units on two separate sites located approximately a mile apart in Decatur, Georgia. It was built in 1969 and under other private management was allowed to decline into poor condition in a short period of time. DHA acquired and then redeveloped the Gateway in 1980. MARTA acquired part of the site to enable the construction of the MARTA train trestle allowing access into downtown Decatur. As a result, DHA was able to acquire another site at 1111 Oakview Road that replaced the 24 demolished units due to MARTA's new east/west line.
Gateway Manor at 421 West Trinity Place became 88 units total with 87 subsidized units and one conventional rental on 5.84 acres. Oakview Apartments at 1111 Oakview Road were 24 subsidized units on .81 acres. Overtime, the apartments became physically and functionally obsolete. DHA continued to invest heavily in required unit repairs just to keep up the property to decent standards. A Housing Assistance Payment (HAP) Contract with HUD allowed the rents to remain affordable as families paid thirty percent of their adjusted gross income towards rent and utilities. DHA undertook a full revitalization of the communities of Trinity Walk and Oakview Walk between 2014 and 2017 that is described more fully elsewhere in this website.
Spring Pointe Community: At the request of the City of Decatur, DHA acquired Spring Pointe, a failing low-income housing tax community, in the early 1990s. It was in deplorable condition and required a complete rehabilitation using HOME Funds. DHA managed the community as a low-income housing tax credit community until the expiration of the income compliance requirements. At that time, DHA began to utilize the Spring Pointe community of 65 units to provide affordable workforce housing for moderate income families in Decatur. Including Spring Pointe, there are at total of 124 rental units that are managed as a part of the overall Workforce Housing owned by DHA.