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Without a voucher, Stevie Rogers says her family would end up on the street. The power bill on Rogers' kitchen table says she owes $145 for the past month; the gas is running her $178. Her rent, because of the voucher discount, is only $170. But if she falls too behind on her utilities and any of them get turned off, the voucher could be taken away. Full rent at the house, poorly insulated and badly constructed though it is, tops $1,000.
Rogers' full-time job as night supervisor at a security company pays only $12,000 per year after taxes. But the hours allow her to spend days with her 3-year-old daughter. Her 17-year-old watches her younger daughter and son at night. Rogers arrives home from work after 3 a.m., and she wakes three hours later to drive her teenager to Carver High School. She half-naps through the day.
That's what would have made the Villages at Carver so helpful. Her older daughter could have walked to school, giving the 41-year-old single mother more time to rest. And the utilities in the efficient, well-insulated apartments would have been a fraction of what she pays at her house, off Jonesboro Road in south Atlanta.
"It seems like the harder you try to do the right thing," she says, tears rolling down her cheeks, "the harder the system is on you."
Despite the signals of inherent problems with mixed-income communities, the AHA is marching ahead with two more mixed-income communities. The two projects -- on opposite sides of downtown -- are the future of the AHA, and the authority wants them bigger and better than anything before.
A block away from the Gold Dome, families have been trickling out of Capitol Homes' 694 apartments. The last of them should be gone this week.
"My own personal belief is that they wouldn't let us back," tenant Sandra Sellers says. "They're looking for people who can pay top dollar."
Sellers and her husband Raymond have lived 15 years in Capitol Homes. Sellers has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound, and Raymond Sellers suffers frequent grand mal epileptic seizures. They will be moving with their two children to Decatur. A landlord there told them he'd take their voucher.
The rental's a long way from Grady Memorial Hospital, which Sellers previously could reach in 10 minutes by wheelchair, and the downtown Kroger, where the family shops for groceries.
"It was convenient to almost everywhere," Sellers says of her home.
Location is partly what Glover is touting as she seeks $140 million from private investors for this project. Those investments will supplement a $35 million HOPE VI grant -- courtesy of federal taxpayers. In addition to 1,000 new apartments -- 350 of them for public housing residents, the AHA plans for 45,000 square feet set aside for offices and retail space.
"Once complete," the AHA's website states, "Capitol Gateway will doubtlessly be the premier development site for mixed-use in the city of Atlanta."
On the other side of the city, Glover is resurrecting a northwest Atlanta wasteland as a 460-acre complex, to be called "West Highlands."
All 760 of the families who lived in what was once Perry Homes had to move out by the end of 2000, and the last of Perry's buildings were demolished a year ago.
In and around the old Perry site, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, a library, a charter school and a YMCA will rise. Glover, together with private developer Noel Khalil, wants to put up 700 rentals to replace Perry's 950, and 800 new houses to sell at market rate, according to plans submitted to HUD. Glover estimates the total cost of the new project to total between $300 million and $400 million.
The AHA has won a fraction of that -- $25 million -- in HOPE VI grants. Glover expects private investors to fund the bulk of the project, but she's also asking the city to come up with $22 million.
"If Atlanta will turn over to AHA a few hundred acres it owns surrounding the former Perry Homes and improve the area's public infrastructure," Glover told the AJC last month, "the potential return in property taxes would be overwhelming."
Sandra and Raymond Sellers and their two children seem like a model family for return to a mixed-income community. Because of their disabilities, neither husband nor wife work; they get $1,000 per month in welfare and social security.
But Sandra Sellers is not optimistic. Because of her family's small income and the limited number of low-income units, she says she doesn't expect to get into the new "Capitol Gateway." And she's worried that even with a voucher, money will be stretched thin.
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