Fleener addresses City Council

By Jeff Lundquist/NT Publisher

Alexsis Fleener, right, addresses the Atlantic City Council during a recent meeting.

ATLANTIC - The Atlantic City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday agreeing to partner with the economic development group, Shift-ATL, to work together to improve the housing stock in the community.

“We see it as a good way to work with multiple organizations that all have the same goals, but maybe don’t have the time or capacity to get this done, “ Shift-ATL member Alexis Fleener said. “You’ve been working on housing the last five to 10 years and this is just one way to move that needle forward.”

Fleener says the group’s plan is find a house in need or repair in the $100,000 range, purchase it, remodel it and then flip it. The profit from the sale would then go towards the purchase of a second home and the process would repeat.

“You’re really looking at rehabbing things that have become dilapidated,” councilman Dana Halder said. “Then hopefully that will grow the next one.”

The group didn’t request funding at this point with officials saying that decision would be dependant on the house being purchased and the participation of other financial backers including local banks.

Atlantic City Administrator John Lund said during a recent Community Development Committee meeting that the city had “between $20,000 and $100,000” in various funds to help if the Council decides to move forward including over $30,000 in a

Low to Moderate Income fund as part of a recent Tax Increment Financing project as well as $55,000 in proceeds from the sale of the senior citizens center.

“We’re looking at homes that have good bones but maybe just need some curb appeal,” Fleener said. “We’re not talking about building a whole new house; we’re not talking about taking a house that maybe should be torn down — we’re just talking about doing what we can and working with groups that can help us make it happen.”

This would be the second project Shift-ATL has undertaken after purchasing the old Downtowner building on Fourth Street, with the intention of remodeling the building and creating a commercial space on the lower floor and short-term living apartments upstairs. That project, while still moving forward, is awaiting approval on a major grant. In the meantime, Fleener said the group would like to move forward with the housing program.

“The housing could happen sooner due to the grant timeline so we could start working on the housing project while we’re waiting,” she said.

The availability of affordable housing has been an ongoing issue with the city and a number of programs have targeted the problem including tax abatements for homeowners who make significant improvements and incentives for residents who build homes on lots owned by the city.

Lund noted in Wednesday’s Council agenda that the majority of the city’s housing stock was built before 1960 and more inclined to need repair.

“Fifty-five percent of homes in Atlantic were built before 1960,” Lund said, “This means most homes in Atlantic are going to be presented with issues of maintenance to be expected of older properties. Some homeowners will be able to afford the upkeep and spend the money to maintain the value. Others can’t afford it and some can afford it but choose to spend on other priorities. For properties owners in the latter two scenarios there will be decline in the quality of the home.”

“A program of housing rehabilitation is the key to breaking a cycle that could over time threaten a large swath of Atlantic’s residential property. There has been a great deal of administrative discussion on how a program like this would work. As luck would have it, the City has been fortunate enough to see a rising interest in community-based development by young professionals,” Lund said.