A 156-unit affordable apartment complex on Happy Valley Road is moving tenants into one of the fastest-growing areas in Northwest Georgia.
Gateway at Rossville Apartment Homes has two completed buildings being rented, property manager Sherry Wilson said, and management is taking applications for one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Located just south of Battlefield Parkway in North Walker County, the income-restricted complex has rent starting at $729 for a one-bedroom, $867 for a two-bedroom and $991 for a three-bedroom apartment.
"The location is really good," Wilson said by phone. "It's a good location for those with children."
Ridgeland High School is across the street from the complex, and Rossville Middle School and Stone Creek Elementary School are nearby.
Wilson said she's seen confusion about the standards for residents on social media, as well as concerns that residents of the apartment complex could attract crime to the area.
Applicants for the apartments have to pass a credit screening and background check, she said. The credit screening is not just about a credit score, but instead looks for evictions and excessive debt. The background check is focused on recent criminal activity to make sure the community remains safe, she said. Annual income allowed to rent at Gateway is $31,620 for one person and $36,120 for two people.
Federal housing vouchers are accepted by the apartment complex, but Wilson said people need to qualify for that program on their own. More information on the program can be found at the Public and Indian Housing Customer Service Center at 800-955-2232.
At a town hall meeting about the apartment complex in the fall of 2021, Josh Mandell, president and chief operating officer at The Gateway Companies, said the project would not accept housing vouchers. Mandell could not be reached for comment before deadline.
The apartment complex had its first tenants move in about two weeks ago, Wilson said, and the other buildings are opening soon. Several units are pending approval and are available for a tour, she said.
Features include a community pool, clubhouse, computer room, fitness center and laundry room, Wilson said. The apartment complex also has a playground, she said, and might add a dog park later.
Margaret Hall, a resident of LaFayette, said in a phone interview that Walker County needs more affordable housing.
Hall said she used to work at a company that manages affordable housing and has a rental property that accepts tenants with vouchers. Workers who don't qualify for government housing assistance still have trouble finding housing because the cost is so high in Walker County, she said.
"You have a lot of hard workers, people who have been at their jobs for years, but they still fall in that in-between," Hall said. "They don't make quite enough money to make ends meet, but they can't get food stamps, their kids don't qualify for PeachCare or Medicaid, and the housing is so expensive."
Hall said she's even seen workers quit their jobs so the family could reduce its income and qualify for government supported housing.
Walker County Commissioner Brian Hart said by phone that he agrees Walker County needs more housing, including affordable housing.
He said he voted against the zoning change to allow the apartment complex in 2021, not because he was against the project, but because he had concerns about infrastructure. The county's Water & Sewage Authority addressed his concerns, and roundabouts are planned on Happy Valley Road to improve traffic flow.
"Right now, I think we're in good shape," Hart said.
Shannon Whitfield, chairman of the Walker County Board of Commissioners, said he expects the apartment complex to be a hit in the community because of the need for affordable housing. The county provided no tax breaks or incentives for the project and only approved the rezoning that allowed the apartments.
He said there's another new housing development nearby called Hawks Ridge, a neighborhood of about 500 homes in the $300,000 price range. The neighborhood is being developed in stages, and Whitfield said about 30 homes are under construction.
There's also a retirement home and 166-home development being developed nearby.
The county is waiting on the final engineering designs for roundabouts along Happy Valley Road, Whitfield said. He said he expected to already have designs for the roundabouts back, but there is a high demand for surveying because there is so much development in the region.