As Atlanta grows, so does the cost of living in the city. The pressure on tenants and landlords can be one of the biggest challenges for Atlanta’s next mayor.
Ahead of the November 30 run-off election, WABE asked the city’s two mayoral candidates, council member Andre Dickens and council chairwoman Felicia Moore, to share their key strategies for responding to the crisis. affordability.
Candidates favored collaborations with public agencies already working on social housing, such as the Atlanta Housing Authority and Invest Atlanta. Dickens called on the city to protect residents through community benefit agreements with developers while Moore offered new workforce development jobs to help seniors maintain their homes. The two agreed on the need to tackle property tax increases for longtime homeowners in fast-growing neighborhoods.
See their full responses below.
As mayor, what is the FIRST thing you would do to…
… Ensure that low-income tenants can afford to live in areas of the city with good schools and other amenities?
Moore: Being ready from day one to be mayor of Atlanta means being able to work the day after an election to make this city affordable. I won’t have to wait until my inauguration in January to make a difference. On December 1, I will be hosting a meeting with the Atlanta Housing Authority to take action to clear the 12-18 month backlog and bring people living on the brink of poverty to high quality, low income housing. Many of these people are seniors and single parent families. Winter is fast approaching, and it’s cruel to keep these people waiting any longer
Immediately after the election, I will also be meeting with our state partners so that we can take action and distribute the federal emergency rent assistance funds. Georgia has been one of the slowest countries to distribute these funds, and it is unreasonable to me that our state should send some of this money back for use by other states that do so more efficiently.
We also need a public service campaign to help educate our citizens on how to access these funds. People are confused or just in uniform, and as elected officials we need to do a better job of making it easier for our residents and businesses to access the support and services they need to stabilize and prosper.
Devil: An immediate step that I will take is to focus on building mixed income housing in Atlanta on city owned land. As mayor, I will build or maintain 20,000 affordable housing units over the next eight years. The city of Atlanta has 800 acres of land that we can convert into affordable housing. We have seen where building mixed income communities can work. We’ve seen it in places like Centennial Place and West Highlands and East Lake. We currently have land that we can build on where people with different incomes can all live in the same community and their children can go to the same schools and they can buy their food from the same local grocery stores.
Additionally, since 2010, Atlanta’s housing costs have increased by 50%, but workers’ income has only increased by 10%. As our housing costs increase, that means residents have less money for their groceries, medications, child care, and transportation costs. Clearly one thing we don’t want to see is that people have to drive every day and leave at night because they can’t afford to live in the city.
Also, through Invest Atlanta, I changed the incentive program to say that we will never offer any incentives unless you set aside 10-15% of the units for affordability. We need to focus on developing vacant lots with mixed income and amenities driven developments.
… Help long-time homeowners stay in neighborhoods where house prices will rise, which will drive up property taxes?
Devil: It really is a moral issue, and our former residents deserve to live in Atlanta. These are the people who educated me while I was at Mays High School, Southwest Middle School, and LP Miles. We have to watch over them.
As mayor, I will have an anti-displacement office in our city to help. I’ll put their appraisals aside to make sure their property won’t go up by a certain rate just because someone has built a half a million dollar house next to them. Our seniors should benefit from a tax freeze on their increases.
We also have the ability to create protections for our residents through community benefit agreements – where developers enter an area and we make sure residents benefit from these large-scale developments, they are not moved and have the possibility of not having their taxes increased. We need to ensure that residents can continue to live in the communities where they already are and have access to new amenities in the area. We will do development without displacement through community benefit agreements.
Also, along the BeltLine Westside Trail, I created a housing rehabilitation program for seniors to have their roofs and windows repaired and railings installed so they can stay in their homes. As mayor, I will continue these programs. I will also make sure that our inherited residents have a trust or will so that they can pass it on to their children or someone they choose so that we don’t have people coming in from outside and buying the house. life of a grandmother. This will also be part of my stabilization plan.
Moore: Our seniors and long-time residents are the people who built our neighborhoods and who imbued each with a unique vibe. Visitors to our city love to explore the fun qualities of each neighborhood. More importantly, I think the initial investors in a neighborhood must feel like they’re not being driven out just because a house across the street is being renovated or a speculator has grabbed a row of houses to develop clusters. of several million dollars.
That’s why, as soon as I’m elected, I’ll be working with our partners in Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County to limit property tax assessments for long-term residents. People should be able to retire to the homes where they built their lives, raised their families, or where they simply age in place.
There is also an intersectional solution to help longtime residents stay in their homes. In my first 100 days, I will be rebuilding our workforce development agency to partner with unions, tech companies and other companies to provide paid training, internships and apprenticeships. . Those who want to get jobs above the living wage in the trades will be able to help fortify homes for the elderly and those in economically troubled neighborhoods. These workers will be able to install ramps and safety equipment that seniors need or repair roofs and do other major repairs. Solutions like these are win-win for homeowners, our workers and neighborhoods.
… Approach homelessness in Atlanta in a way that differs from past initiatives?
Devil: In Atlanta, we currently have about 3,200 people considered homeless, but our shelters are only 70% occupied.
We still have 30% more space, but during the pandemic we have especially seen the problem of people being afraid to live near someone else during this time, or that they don’t really know how. they will be handled by others. in shelters. It’s a complex problem, but my solution is to have a Housing First model. It is very difficult to assess a person’s situation when they choose to live in a tent or in front of a building.
You should bring them to a clean, dry place to live with access to a hot meal and a hot shower. From there, we can find them the treatment or supportive care they need. That’s why we have the Continuum of Care, the PAD and Partners for Homes all working together. We can then get them back on track with a job at a place like Goodwill or First Step Staffing or Georgia Works.
Moore: For many years, Atlanta has led the nation in making homelessness rare, brief, and non-recurring, through the work of leaders like Jack Hardin, Regional Homelessness Task Force, Gateway Center, Union Mission, Partners for Home and others. The pandemic and the resulting eviction crisis blocked our progress, and the closure of the Peachtree and Pine shelter has put hundreds of people back on the streets.
Immediately after my election, I will identify a couple of buildings that belong to the city of Atlanta that can be quickly upgraded to barrier-free or low-barrier shelters with a particular focus on the needs of the elderly, women and families. for which there are currently few beds available.
I will also be calling a meeting with our partner agencies and the city directors of the HOPWA funding program. There is no excuse for delays in processing federal funds through our city to agencies providing housing to people living with AIDS. It hurts our most vulnerable citizens, housing providers and service organizations.
My approach is different because it is micro-targeted to the most severe pain points in our city, and it does not continue to penalize those who do not wish to accept the barriers placed in front of them by other service providers.
… Create a sustainable source of funding for long-term affordable housing?
Devil: We need to make sure we provide affordable housing. It’s clear that people want to live in the city of Atlanta and not have to drive an hour every day to get to work. We haven’t seen affordable housing built in Atlanta in the last 12 years or so. We have parts of Atlanta that are basically vacant lots where we can build mixed income housing.
One of my main goals is mobility in our city and I think we can do a better job being more data-driven at city hall. I am an engineer and I care a lot about metrics. I also want to see people rise through the ranks and be able to afford homes in our community. For example, when Microsoft announced that they were coming to Atlanta, I looked at Brad Smith, the president, and I said it was good that you have buildings in Atlanta, but I want to know how many Atlantians are going to be in your buildings. I want to see people on their own with their own success, buy houses in Atlanta and stay here.
We need to explore the options surrounding Catalytic Capital for a recurring source of affordable housing. In addition, we can increase acquisitions and transactions at the Land Bank Authority and expand our community land trusts. There are options, but they all start with us building on the vacant lots that we already have in our city and growing from there.
Moore: (No answer given.)