Five new communities to join community housing initiative

Athens, Ga. – The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH) has announced the selection of five Georgia communities – Colquitt, Metter, Milledgeville, Newnan and Tifton – to participate in a three-year program developed to assist them with their housing needs.

GICH is a collaborative initiative of the Housing and Demographics Research Center at the University of Georgia, the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and the Georgia Municipal Association. It is partially funded by the Georgia Power Company, the Wachovia Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development and is supported by the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation through in-kind services.

Affordable housing plays a key role in the economic viability and development of communities,” according to Mike Beatty, DCA Commissioner. “The cities and countiesthat are participating in the initiative have taken an important first step in enhancing their communities by seeking viable and measurable options that will help them meet their unique housing needs.”

During GICH’s three-year program, each community housing team will receive facilitation, instruction, and technical assistance as they design and implement a housing program to improve both the quality of life of its citizens and the communities’ economic conditions. The centerpiece of the initiative is a series of retreats, where each housing team works separately with a facilitator/housing professional, as well as engaging in cross-community sharing and collaboration. Communities will have access to technical assistance and receive continuous feedback throughout the three-year program.

Any city, county or public housing authority in Georgia is eligible to apply, on behalf of a community housing team. The teams consist of about 12 members and include representatives from local government, businesses (banks, real estate, and builders/developers), nonprofit housing organizations and the public housing authority.Other groups may include faith-based organizations, churches, development authorities, chambers of commerce, school system, major employers and law enforcement agencies.

Nothing is more important to a community’s viability and quality of life than having an adequate supply of decent, safe and affordable housing,” said Jim Higdon, GMA executive director. “We applaud the local governments selected to participate in this program for their commitment to involve a broad cross-section of their community to address this critical issue.”

The program kicks-off with this year’s selected communities attending the Housing Georgia 2006 Conference and Magnolia Awards for Excellence in Affordable Housing to be held at the Cobb Galleria Center on Nov. 16. This third class of communities will join Cartersville, Fort Valley, Sylvester, Thomasville, Valdosta and Waycross, which are entering their third year of the program, and Camden County, Dalton/Whitfield, Hall County, Moultrie and Waynesboro, which are entering their second year.

Housing is an economic issue, both from the direct and indirect economic impact of construction and the availability of workforce housing in seeking new industry,” said Tom Rodgers, director of housing at UGA’s HDRC. “By participating in the GICH program, these cities and counties are actively addressing their community and economic development needs.”

For more information about this program, call Karen Tinsley at the Housing and Demographics Research Center at the University of Georgia, 706/5424949, or by email at klt@uga.edu. Additional information can be found at http://www.fcs.uga.edu/hace/hdrc/gich/index.html.
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