Transforming Atlanta’s Historic Westside
Cadence Bank is proud to support Westside Future Fund, a place-based nonprofit committed to bringing equity to Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods.
The Westside of Atlanta is considered one of the birthplaces of the Civil Rights movement. The community was home to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family, as well as Black politicians like Maynard Jackson and Julian Bond. However, over the last few decades, the neighborhoods that make up Atlanta’s Westside have experienced significant decline.
Hoping to address the inequity faced by residents of these neighborhoods, the Atlanta Committee for Progress launched the nonprofit organization Westside Future Fund (WFF) in 2014. Westside Future Fund’s vision is to “help Historic Westside neighborhoods revitalize and develop into a community Dr. King would be proud to call home.”
Cadence Bank has contributed $1.5 million to Westside Future Fund’s Home on the Westside project, an initiative that provides affordable rental and for-purchase housing to Westside families.
“Donating to Westside Future Fund was a great opportunity for us to show our commitment to our Atlanta customers and teammates,” says Robert Harris, Outreach & Emerging Markets executive at Cadence Bank.
Revitalizing Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods
WFF focuses on four neighborhoods located on Atlanta's Westside: English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and the Atlanta University Center. The Home on the Westside program prioritizes applicants who have ties to these neighborhoods. This includes current and former residents, people who work in the community, those with children enrolled in the Atlanta Public Schools Booker T. Washington cluster and people who graduated from an Atlanta University Center institution.
WFF has been hard at work constructing single-family homes and rental properties as part of its Home on the Westside program. Launched in October 2019, the initiative reflects the organization’s commitment to ensuring that legacy residents benefit from revitalization efforts in the historic community.
"An influx of jobs and people are returning to the heart of Atlanta, bringing new life to an area rich in cultural history, but long neglected due to systemic inequity," said John Ahmann, CEO of Westside Future Fund. "We leverage public-private partnerships as part of our community retention plan to ensure that legacy residents and business owners always have a home on the Westside."
Currently, 210 multifamily units and 29 single-family homes are in service. And, there are 121 multifamily units and 32 single-family homes in development as of October 2021. By 2025, WFF hopes to have 800 units completed.
The majority of Cadence Bank’s $1.5 million contribution will be used to provide down payment assistance to Home on the Westside participants. This down payment assistance takes the form of a 10-year forgivable loan with 0% interest.
“Our hope is that this contribution will support and amplify the existing efforts of Westside Future Fund,” says Phil Sandoval, community development lending manager at Cadence Bank.
Going beyond affordable housing
Establishing stable, mixed-income communities is only one of Westside Future Fund’s strategies for transforming this historic part of Atlanta. The organization has three other core focus areas:
- Safety and security: For a neighborhood to thrive, residents need to feel safe. Over the years, WFF has introduced several initiatives to reduce violent crime and decrease the number of vacant housing units on the Westside.
- Cradle-to-career education: WFF is committed to providing Westside residents with access to quality K-12 education and job training programs.
- Community health and wellness: WFF promotes wellness by investing in healthcare facilities, parks and green space.
“One of the best things about this organization is that it takes a comprehensive, holistic approach to community transformation,” says Harris.
WFF also has an Impact Fund that magnifies the benefit of public donations. For every $1 that an individual donates to the Home on the Westside project, $2 is contributed from the Impact Fund. “The impact that WFF has made through its many projects is truly remarkable,” says Sandoval. “It’s a very well put together and effective organization.”
Helping Westside residents remain in the neighborhood
The work that WFF does maintains the historical and cultural character of Westside neighborhoods while increasing the quality of life for residents.
“Prices have been rapidly increasing on the Westside, and remaining in the neighborhood has become unaffordable for many families,” says Sandoval. “Programs like Home on the Westside give families the financial assistance they need to keep living in the communities they call home.”
In addition to the development of new affordable housing units, the Home on the Westside program includes individualized financial coaching designed to help current renters qualify for future homeownership. There is also an Anti-Displacement Tax Fund that is used to cover increases in existing property taxes for legacy Westside homeowners.
“Westside Future Fund is working to reverse the gentrification and displacement that happens all too often in legacy communities,” says Harris. “We feel incredibly fortunate to be a partner in this effort.”
Sandoval adds, “Westside Future Fund produces tangible results at scale. The difference this organization is making in the Historic Westside cannot be overstated.”
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