Investment group turns 70 DeKalb renters into homeowners

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By Asia Ashley

James Bailey was comfortable renting his home of nearly 10 years in the Brook Glen subdivision in Decatur.

The 25-year post military veteran has lived in the home as a caretaker to his brother. Two years ago, the home was owned by Housing Development Corporation (HDC) of DeKalb — a not-for-profit entity that develops and manages affordable housing solutions—until it was purchased in 2019 by real estate investment group Atlantica Properties, which had launched an initiative to turn renters into homeowners.

“I was 63 and a caregiver for my brother and I was hoping to rent until God called us home,” he said. “So, when this happened, we were forced to get an apartment somewhere and pack up or move and we had been here for eight years. And I thought about my brother and was like ‘Oh no… so I was willing to take this house as is just so we could stay here.’”

Partnering with Auerbach Funds, a New York-based real estate private equity fund, Atlantica Properties purchased 72 single-family homes from the HDC of DeKalb. The company reported that since then, 94 percent of those homes have been sold, many of them to first -time homebuyers.

Bailey said he was notified by Atlantica nine months prior to his lease ending that he could buy the home, or the company would put it on the market for sale. An Atlantica spokesperson said the company informed all tenants that if they did not want to purchase the home they were renting, they could remain until the end of their lease or move to a month-to-month lease until they found another affordable rental property. If the tenant chose to relocate to another rental, the home was offered for sale on the open market.

“I was supposed to be out by January 2020, at the latest by March 2020,” said Bailey. “But the pandemic happened in March so that threw a wrench into things. So, between the pandemic and Atlantica Properties being patient, we ended up closing in August 2020.”

Bailey said he was able to use his VA loan for the home. While he said he is happy that he and his brother did not have to uproot from their home and that his mortgage is more than $200 less than the rent he was paying, he admits the process was stressful initially.

“I wish there was a better way for them to give us a longer notice before they sell. Even the nine months just cut it,” he explained. “I think it should be something to make sure they work with the person that’s renting early and ahead of time and let them know that they could possibly sell the property. It would have been good to at least [have] made some kind of agreement to rent it for at least another year or two and give the option to buy.”

Atlantica accepted buyers with all forms of financing, including FHA, VA and NACA participants, and sold 8 percent of the homes to its existing tenants, according to the company.

“The process was not easy, especially since we received offers from investors who were offering cash and willing to pay above our listed price,” stated Darion Dunn, managing partner of Atlantica Properties. “However, we stayed true to our mission because we wanted to make a positive impact on the community by preserving affordability and neighborhood stability.”

When Atlantica Properties launched the initiative, the company was searching for solutions to help increase affordable housing options in metro Atlanta, specifically in DeKalb County, which according to the Atlanta Regional Commission, has a home ownership rate of 54 percent, compared to the state average of 63 percent.

“We were happy to partner on this project that helped increase access to homeownership for so many families,” said Peter Auerbach, founder and CEO of Auerbach Funds. “We are looking forward to working with Atlantica Properties on similar ventures in the future.”

Atlantica Properties has plans to acquire more single-family homes to promote home ownership. Atlantica also recently announced plans to develop 46 affordable townhomes in Grove Park on Atlanta’s westside that will be available for purchase, the company stated.

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