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How This Black-Owned, Atlanta-Based Construction Company Is Fighting Gentrification

By Danielle Dorsey

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Gentrification is hitting the Atlanta metro area hard and while old buildings are being remodeled and creating new business opportunities, long-time Black residents are being priced out. It’s a problem that Black-owned H.J Russell & Co. construction firm, along with their real estate development company Russell New Urban Development LLC, hope to tackle with the reopening of 210 affordable housing units.

One of the properties, Maggie Russell Towers, designates 150 units for seniors age 62 and older or disabled.  The remaining 60 units at the Capitol Vanira Apartments property will prioritize families. Maggie Russell Towers is located in the Old Fourth Ward and Capitol Vanira Apartments are in Reynoldstown, two popular neighborhoods that have been recently impacted by gentrification.

All 210 units are subsidized based on household income. With the subsidy, no household pays more than 30% of their household income for rent. Maggie Russell Towers is already 91% occupied and expected to hit capacity by late September. Capitol Vanira Apartments is 100% occupied and has a large waiting list.

With revenue of just over $178 million, H.J Russell & Co ranked No. 25 on Black Enterprise’s annual list of the top black-owned businesses in the nation.

President of H.J Russell & Co. and Russell New Urban Development LLC H. Jerome Russell stated in a press release that, “Our investment to enhance affordable housing underscores our dedication to building communities, and at the same time, enhancing the living environments of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents who also deserve quality housing in the heart of Atlanta.”

The development projects follow Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ recently launched “One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan.” The citywide initiative includes an investment of $1 billion in public and private funds to combat rising housing costs and displacement of established residents. Supporters call it the most comprehensive housing plan of its kind in Atlanta history.

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