Five Georgia communities, including Rockmart, have been newly selected to receive assistance with their housing needs through the Georgia Initiative for Community Housing (GICH), a public-private initiative focused on helping communities strategically grow their economies through housing-related solutions.

Athens-Clarke County, Evans County, and the cities of Millen, Monroe and Rockmart will begin the three-year program in February. Through training and technical instruction during a series of retreats, community housing teams design and implement strategies to enhance their economies as well as the quality of life for their citizens. During these work sessions, each team will work with and receive continuous feedback from a facilitator or housing professional, as well as engage in cross-community collaboration.

“GICH has made a measurable impact for its participating communities, enabling them to create and launch locally-based plans to meet their housing and neighborhood revitalization needs. I am excited that each class of communities and their housing teams engage in cross-community collaboration and in the development of creative solutions,” said Commissioner Camila Knowles of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs, a partner in the initiative. “These teams form the foundation which long-term housing and community development will be built upon.”

The teams consist of about 12 members and include representatives from local government, business, nonprofit housing organizations, and the public housing authority. Other groups may include faith-based organizations, churches, development authorities, chambers of commerce, school systems, major employers, and law enforcement.

Since the program’s inception in 2005, 55 Georgia communities have benefited from the GICH program. The communities currently enrolled in the program are Albany, Cedartown, Douglasville, Liberty County, Madison, Perry, Pine Mountain, Porterdale, Rincon and Trion.

Some of the resulting strategies undertaken by communities include revitalizing distressed neighborhoods and subdivisions, developing multi-family apartments through tax credits, updating codes and ordinances, creating a land bank authority, writing an urban redevelopment plan, conducting a housing assessment, and launching community clean-up programs.

Up to five communities are selected through a competitive process each year to participate in the initiative. Communities are selected based on need and their demonstrated commitment to community improvement. Any city, county or public housing authority in Georgia is eligible to apply on behalf of a community housing team. Applications are due each September.

GICH is a collaboration of partners including: the University of Georgia’s Housing and Demographics Research Center, a unit of the Department of Financial Planning, Housing and Consumer Economics in the College of Family and Consumer Sciences; UGA’s Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach; the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; and the Georgia Municipal Association, a voluntary, non-profit organization based in Atlanta that provides legislative advocacy, educational, employee benefit and consulting services to its 521 member cities.

The GICH program is funded by Georgia Power as well as the USDA through a Rural Community Development Initiative grant. Additional in-kind services are provided by UGA Extension and the Georgia Electric Membership Corporation in addition to UGA’s Archway Partnership and the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, both units of the UGA Office of Public Service and Outreach.

For more information about GICH, visit the DCA website at http://www.dca.ga.gov/communities/CommunityInitiatives/programs/GICH.asp.