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Our History

Our History

The beginnings of public housing

In 1937, the U.S. federal government sought to aid U.S. cities in replacing substandard housing with decent, affordable housing. To that end, congress created the U.S. Housing Authority, authorizing it to make loans to local housing authorities for the construction of affordable housing projects.

On August 15, 1949, The Housing Authority of the City of Gainesville, Georgia (GHA) was created by the Gainesville City Council, after being authorized by the Legislature of Georgia under the Housing Authorities Law of 1937. Gainesville was the fifty-ninth housing authority developed in Georgia. Its first development was Melrose Homes which is located at 854 Davis Street and now houses 114 families next to Good News at Noon. The second development, Green Hunter Homes, was built in two phases. (Green Hunter Homes was demolished and redeveloped in 2018 and is now Walton Summit.)

The first phase consisted of an eighty-unit development and the second phase added another fifty apartments. Next, several scattered sites were developed around town, including units next to Good News Clinic on Martin Luther King, Will and Pine, Banks, Summit and Johnson Street. Later, more Scattered Site infill units were built around town in small parcels; these are Butler Apartments, Mill Street, Tower Heights and Collins Street. These homes were built in the 1960s.

A gradual shift in demographics

In the 1950s, the public housing demographics gradually shifted from transient, upwardly mobile residents (seeking temporary housing during the postwar shortage) to economically and educationally disadvantaged citizens with few opportunities to climb the socio-economic ladder.

Public housing was racially integrated by federal law in the 1960s. Also, during the 1960s, public perception of the nature of public housing gradually morphed from that of a temporary base for residents – until they gained a foothold – into that of a semi-permanent dwelling for the poorest of the poor. As public perception shifted, so did laws regarding public housing.

In 1969, 1970 and 1971, Congress enacted the Brooke Amendments, which limited rents charged to residents to 25 percent of a family’s adjusted income. Housing authorities were also required to admit tenants who would pay no rent at all, and to lower the rent for many existing tenants.

The law's impact was swift and substantial. Public housing often quickly deteriorated, many tenants were paying little or no rent and operating and repair costs skyrocketed. By the late 1970s, this grew into a financial crisis.

The late 1960s and early 1970s were a period of tenant dissatisfaction and activism on a local and national level. Lawsuits were filed by tenant groups regarding grievance procedures. This ultimately resulted in many policy changes throughout the country. A national push was made to bring active resident councils into existence in all developments.

Turnkey III Homeownership

In 1970, GHA participated in the Turnkey III Homeownership Opportunities Program, a program in which low-income families would move into homes as renters and progress to homeownership through conventional or FHA-guaranteed loans. This program of 100 apartment units for mostly large families was a new concept and the first of this type undertaken by GHA. At this time, Harrison Square was developed at two sites; 75 units were constructed across from the old Butler Gym off Old Athens Highway and 25 units were constructed across from Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Section 8 (Housing Choice Voucher program)

The Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 made available to Georgia a completely different type of low-income housing program called Section 8. The intent of the new program was to subsidize the rent of low-income families to help them afford decent housing in the private market. HUD would make up the difference between what a low-income household could afford and the fair market rent for an adequate housing unit. Under this program, very few housing authorities in Georgia were allowed to administer their own program. As a result the State of Georgia created the Department of Community Affairs, which is the primary administrator for the Section 8 Program for Georgia.

Today and looking ahead

GHA continues to foster community partnering with stakeholders such as the University of North Georgia, Brenau University, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, The United Way, Gainesville City Schools, Hall County Health Department, Boys and Girls Club of Lanier, and the city of Gainesville. Numerous programs –  including RISE – find their beginnings in these partnerships that today serve the community in myriad and diverse ways.

GHA continues to meet our residents' needs in the most fair, effective and efficient ways possible, aiming to help them become more self sufficient, community-connected and contributing citizens.

Gainesville Housing Authority (like other Housing Authorities across the nation) is an Independent Corporation authorized by enabling Federal Legislation and created in accordance with the Housing Authorities Law of the State of Georgia. The GHA operates under the supervision of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Evaluated annually through the Public Housing Assessment System (PHAS) – a method used by HUD for judging the successful operation of a housing authority, the housing authority scores a Standard Performing status for the Public Housing Programs.

Higher scores mean a housing authority is more likely to be eligible for grants from federal & state sources. Accordingly, many of GHA's award-winning resident programs are funded through these sources.


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