Like It or Not: Sweet Land Deal

Opinion piece by Jessica Szilagyi

If I offered to sell you a $138 million property for say, $17 million – a $120 million discount – what would you think?
 
What? You say you don’t have $17 million sitting around?
 
I’ll tell you what, I’ll make the deal even sweeter. I’ll help you borrow the money. Still hesitant? How about if I give you seven years to make up your mind. Yep, at any point over the next seven years you want to buy the property, just let me know. If not, no worries. 
 
Too good to be true, right?
 
Well, that’s the deal the former Chief of the Atlanta Housing Authority reportedly made with an urban property management group called Integral six years ago. And now Integral wants the city to honor the agreement. 
 
Integral says the sweetheart deal was a “thank you” from the AHA’s Renee Glover for the work it did transforming low-income housing projects into mixed-use developments.
 
Glover apparently didn't tell anyone else about the giveaway of city land or get their approval.
 
Now, the Atlanta Housing Authority’s current leadership says “no thanks” and is suing to stop the deal, calling it unconscionable, secret, and a violation of state and federal regulations. 
 
Sounds like strong language. 
 
Catherine Buell, the current president of the AHA, was recently quoted in Reason.com, a libertarian political web publication, as saying "The Atlanta Housing Authority is not a land bank for private developers to purchase land at rock bottom prices.” 
 
I agree.
 
Here’s some background. Integral has been working with the Atlanta Housing Authority for decades and even had HUD-backed loans for revitalization efforts in the early 2000s. 
 
The 2011 agreement with Glover was part of an amendment to allow Integral to purchase land adjacent to the low-income developments. Integral’s co-founder, Egbert Perry says the deal is fair because of the value his investment added to AHA land. Perry and Glover now serve together on the board of Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association.
 
I think the contract between them is not valid because Glover didn’t have the authority to do it herself, and neither the AHA Board nor HUD signed off.
 
There are no meeting minutes indicating a vote was ever cast and members of the Board have no recollection of it ever happening. The Board even suspected Mrs. Glover was freelancing and voted around that time to restrict her duties over concerns she was acting without members’ consent. 

Atlanta Mayor Reed has expressed outrage over the deal and wrote a scathing letter to the CEO of Integral calling the sale, “unlawful, unethical, and untenable for anyone”. If you agree, let the Mayor know you want him to keep up the pressure to halt the sale. Here is his contact information:

Phone: (404) 330-6100

Twitter: @KasimReed

He may have success in the court of public opinion. Bottom line: We as taxpayers have a right to expect government leaders to make deals in the public interest. This deal doesn't pass the smell test.

 

DISCLAIMER: This segment represents the views of the commentator and not necessarily those of FOX 5 Atlanta.

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