Council Committee Approves Public Housing Task Force

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(APN) ATLANTA — On Thursday, November 27, 2007, the Community Development and Human Resources Committee (CDHR) of the City Council of Atlanta approved a resolution to create a Housing Relocation Task Force (HRTF) to study the impact of public housing demolitions on residents and ask the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) to suspend the demolitions until the study is completed.

The resolution passed unanimously. The other co-sponsor of the resolution is Councilman Kwanza Hall. The full City Council will vote this Monday, December 03, 2007, on the resolution.

“We are a legislative body that represents all of the citizens including Housing Authority citizens who have come before us, expressing the best way they can, that this ain’t right. There’s a problem,” Councilman Ivory Lee Young, cosponsor of the resolution, said during the meeting.

“Those who have been watching have seen this resolution sit in Committee for quite some time and some of us have waited very patiently to hear what we thought would be appropriate responses to the needs of our senior citizens,” Young said.

“When the seniors were relocated from John O’Chiles many concerns were brought to this Committee, and at our last Committee meeting a litany of issues were presented to us by compassioned, impacted seniors who really just want an opportunity for fair, equal opportunity, equal access for accessible, safe housing,” Young said.

The resolution states, “A resolution to create a Housing Relocation Task Force to study the effect of the Atlanta Housing Authority Quality of Life initiative on those residents who are to be relocated and requesting that the Atlanta Housing Authority suspend the demolition and renovation schedules of those senior highrises in which the displacement of seniors is anticipated, until adequate alternative housing is found for each resident who will be displaced, and for other purposes,” according to a copy of the resolution obtained by Atlanta Progressive News.

“Many of them would prefer not to be relocated, but if they were relocated, there are a lot of issues that surround the relocation of a senior citizen. Many of them have been in these very comfortable environments for a long time. And so to ask them to move is traumatic in and of itself,” Young said.

In response to a question from Councilwoman Joyce Shepherd, Young clarified that although the resolution specifically calls out Palmer House and Roosevelt House, two senior highrises, that all public housing communities slated for demolition are indirectly referenced in the full text.

The resolution had apparently sat in the CDHR Committee for quite some time while the Committee sought answers from AHA.

“I was confident that after John O’Chiles, and all of the stories that we had heard from seniors and their testimony before this Committee, I was confident that we would not have a repeat when it came with a discussion of Palmer and Roosevelt and those senior highrises. And here it is, business as usual,” Young said.

Young also complained that AHA did not keep the promises it made during the public housing demolitions which began in Atlanta in the 1990s.

“The reality is, when before [sic] a single public housing unit was demolished, before the Olympics, it was a fact that the presentation that was being presented to public housing was that inside the fence there would be a certain percentage of what they called, deemed affordable housing, inside the fence of public housing developments. And that there was an affirmative plan to go out and find outside of the fence in a scattered site housing concept, replacement housing in order to supply adequate housing for the residents that were displaced from public housing,” Young said.

“This was the presentation, this was what got the buy-in in old Techwood Homes. And old John Hope Homes. These were the things that were presented,” Young said. “And we know a fact, many folks that lived in those housings no longer live, many of them in the city limits, many of them do not live anywhere in the environments they are accustomed to.”

The HRTF, if approved by the full Council, would possibly be the first real effort of the City Council to consider information on the public housing demolitions not provided by the Atlanta Housing Authority itself.

The City Council held a “Work Session” on the public housing demolition plans several months ago, although only AHA was allowed to make a presentation at that time.

Young and Hall planned to develop the criteria for how Task Force members would be selected in time for Monday’s meeting, Young said in response to a question from Councilwoman Shepherd, and the resolution was approved on condition that the criteria be developed.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com

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