Atlanta can’t exist if we only provide housing for the wealthiest people in our region. We’ve spent years debating the definition of “affordability” and very little time and money actually building housing for anyone who needs our help right now to avoid being displaced or homeless today. We must not let development just happen “to us”and take control of our city’s future.
When I am elected, I will appoint a Commissioner of Housing and create and implement a strategic action plan to meet specific and measureable production targets for affordable housing at various income levels (including for homeless individuals) that can be tracked and adjusted as market dynamics change. I will ensure that publicly-owned assets like the Civic Center site and property along the Atlanta BeltLine are used to create new affordable housing options, and I will secure additional land in areas of future need by purchasing vacant land as well as boarded up apartments buildings and houses, and exploring a land trust model for holding and leveraging property to meet our goals. Public ownership allows us to enforce long-term affordability. And I will ensure that affordable housing is located in fast-growing areas that offer access to jobs, quality education, community parks, and basic services like grocery stores.
The Atlanta BeltLine owns very little property but has the goal and commitment to create more than 5,600 units of “affordable housing”. To the extent possible, that should be housing that is perpetually affordable in areas close to the the transit oriented lifestyle that is so important to reaching work without the expense of a car. Five thousand units is a good start, but it’s a drop in the bucket for what’s needed city-wide. I believe we should keep that commitment but provide the money to a housing organization or organizations that can meet those goals quickly as well as acquire real estate that can be placed in a land trust and used to lower the price of construction. And we should use land that the Atlanta BeltLine doesn’t need for transportation infrastructure to get started now.
I will focus on creating a dedicated revenue stream for affordable housing, exploring all available funding mechanisms from tax allocation districts to development impact fees to a parking tax, and create an affordable housing trust fund. In addition, I will propose a comprehensive public policy package of incentives and requirements for developers to ensure inclusionary housing development citywide.
To protect long term residents from being priced out of their homes through rising property values, I will ensure that existing homestead exemptions are targeted and relevant, and that low-income and senior homeowners are given solid relief while protecting the Atlanta Public School system’s future budget.
I will make housing for people in most danger of displacement our first priority. As we build or secure housing, we’ll make sure that those living nearby in substandard or homes with escalating prices have first choice to live in housing with long term affordability in their existing neighborhoods and school districts.
Housing affordability is a nationwide problem complicated by federal and state policies as well as a local and global investors who own thousands of units of homes and apartment buildings that are boarded up and empty. The taxes they pay are nominal and there is little incentive to sell and make these homes available to people who need them. I will evaluate the entire Atlanta tax digest to ensure that investment property owners pay their fair share of property taxes so that we can put more existing properties to work and help bring communities back to life.
Finally, I will work to have a legislative package ready when the General Assembly convenes in January, in order to give Atlanta the authority necessary to take action on property tax and gentrification related issues.