Willow Branch is an apartment community in Clarkston, Georgia, that was built in 1972.


For decades, this complex was known for its high crime rates, rampant mold and safety issues, and vacancies due to disrepair and steep rent increases. It is no coincidence that Indian Creek Elementary School, which is located directly next door to Willow Branch, once ranked in the bottom 10 percent of all elementary schools in Georgia.


Today, this community has transformed. What was once a barely livable apartment complex is now home to 700 residents in 186 units—full occupancy with a waiting list of more than 20 families. Its residents have access to safe, renovated, and affordable housing; free, on-site afterschool educational programming; wellness programming, including a primary care physician and dental services through a nearby federally qualified health center; and a local elementary school that—because of this complex—is steadily improving its Georgia Milestones performance and school ranking, rising 197 spots in just two years. 


This change was made possible through a housing model championed by 3Star Communities with a unique, yet simple, concept: keep families stable, in an affordable housing environment, with access to educational support and affordable medical services, and they will have their highest chance to thrive.


3Star Communities is a newly formed 501(c)(3), working in partnership with TriStar Real Estate Investment, a Georgia limited liability company, to purchase and renovate older apartment complexes across Atlanta, primarily in communities with low-performing schools. These apartments are rented at rates that are affordable for families living at or below the poverty level, with a host of wraparound services offered on-site through an affiliated nonprofit, Star-C Programs. The 3Star Communities model has a proven track record at reducing transiency and bringing lasting change to a community.

TriStar seeks to develop a formal collaborative education-housing model that could be scaled to blighted communities in Atlanta, and beyond. TriStar has engaged multiple community partners and led a series of conversations and studies to ensure the model would work. Organizations and institutions that include Indian Creek Elementary School, Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, Oakhurst Medical Center, DeKalb County Extension Services, Hands on Atlanta, Georgia State University, and numerous government, church, and volunteer organizations all played a part. 


After conversations with more than 100 community leaders, TriStar determined that a successful housing- education model- which ultimately became the 3Star model - hinged on four interdependent pillars that promote stability and reduce student transiency: 


  • Affordable rents and a safe, clean environment for those living at the poverty level (a monthly average rent of $683 is affordable for a family of four earning $24,600 per year)
  • Wraparound support services to improve family outcome, such as afterschool educational programs,
  • Assistance with healthcare navigation,
  • Provide space for community gardening​
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