Beltline Inc. Attempts to Deceive City Council about BAHAB’s Original Recommendations
(APN) ATLANTA — Beltline Inc. attempted to deceive the Community Development and Human Resources Committee of the City Council of Atlanta in a series of responses to questions posed by Atlanta Progressive News regarding the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund (BAHTF).
The Beltline answered a series of questions presented in writing by APN on Monday, February 14, 2011. In fact, APN has been attempting to get the Beltline to explain to the CD/HR Cmte since June 2010 why it opposed supporting affordable housing for the neediest families in Atlanta.
APN presented the question in writing on Tuesday, February 01, 2011, to the CD/HR Cmte and to the Beltline.
The first question posed was: “(1) Why did the Beltline oppose the original BAHAB recommendation which was to require 10 percent of affordable housing in BAHTF-funded multi-family developments at 30 percent of AMI (extremely low-income families)?” [AMI refers to Area Median Income.]
BAHAB is the Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board, made up of representatives of the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, and Atlanta Public Schools, and was charged with recommending how to spend the proceeds from the BAHTF. Fifteen percent of all bond proceeds from the Beltline Tax Allocation Districts are supposed to go to the Trust Fund to support affordable housing.
“Originally, BAHAB, did not recommend the requirement referenced in the question above,” the Beltline wrote.
However, that is a lie.
According to the original document, “Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board Affordable Housing Trust Fund Recommendations” obtained by APN, BAHAB did in fact make the recommendation on page four.
“BAHAB recommends a commitment to households at 30% of AMI (households just above the minimum wage) through a requirement that 10% of the affordable units built be targeted to households at or below 30% of AMI,” BAHAB wrote in its original recommendations.
APN first reported on how the Beltline and the Atlanta Development Authority opposed this BAHAB recommendation in 2009. At that time, APN had extensive conversations with the Beltline, BAHAB, and ADA as to why the Beltline and ADA opposed the recommendation. Therefore, the Beltline and ADA have already admitted in previous interviews with APN that they opposed the recommendation.
But now, they are attempting to deceive the Council by denying that such a recommendation was ever made.
APN advised the CD/HR Cmte at yesterday’s Cmte meeting, Tuesday, February 15, 2011, that the Beltline had lied.
Cmte Chairwoman Joyce Sheperd (District 12) did not immediately respond to the situation. She did state that she had just received the Beltline’s answers to the questions posed by APN, as well as to questions posed in November 2010 in writing by senior advocate Ben Howard. Sheperd stated that the Beltline would be coming before the Cmte on March 01, 2011, to give their quarterly presentation and discuss their answers in more detail.
APN first brought the issue up to CD/HR in June 2010, when Beltline CEO Brian Leary was there to make a quarterly presentation. Mr. Leary has not personally appeared before the Cmte since then, sending representatives instead. Leary promised to respond at the next quarterly presentation in September 2010.
However, the Beltline representative who came to the September 2010 meeting said she was not aware of Mr. Leary’s commitment to provide any response.
Chairwoman Sheperd then asked the Beltline to come back in November 2010, where they did make a presentation on the status of the BAHTF. However, they still did not address the issue of their opposition to BAHAB’s recommendation for a minimal requirement of affordable housing for extremely low-income families. Then, Sheperd asked APN to put any outstanding and new questions in writing.
APN did so, and, as stated above, presented those questions in writing and verbally on February 01, 2011.
Therefore, it has taken the Beltline eight months to provide any answer at all, and the agency has undertaken a new strategy of answering the question, but doing so deceptively.
Mr. Howard also presented questions at the Beltline’s November 2010 presentation at CD/HR. His questions were already in written form at that time, and Sheperd promised that the Beltline would respond by the next meeting in two weeks; that did not happen.
According to an email from James Alexander of the Beltline, the agency hand delivered answers to Mr. Howard’s questions yesterday, February 15. Sheperd acknowledged receiving the answers to Mr. Howard’s questions as well, but so far Mr. Howard himself has not been provided with a copy.
PHOENIX HOUSE PROJECT FELL THROUGH
The Beltline also revealed that an affordable housing project which had received a commitment of BAHTF dollars, Phoenix House, had also fallen through, in its answers to APN’s questions.
“Although the Trust Fund committed funding to this project, the remaining subsidies from other sources fell through and at the moment the project is no longer active,” the Beltline wrote in its answer to APN’s question number five.
This is significant because in its November 2010 presentation at CD/HR, the Beltline had told the Cmte that 69 units of affordable housing were to be produced at Phoenix House, making up the vast majority of affordable housing to have been funded through the BAHTF. And these units were supposed to be targeted to families transitioning out of homelessness, whose incomes were at or below 30 percent of AMI.
This means that–excluding the City Hall East redevelopment–the Beltline has only funded two units of affordable housing to date.
The City Hall East units received an exemption from the final BAHAB requirements, which were already weakened. The Council approved the CHE redevelopment despite secret building plans by developer Jamestown, so it is unclear how many units of housing will be produced at any price point. And it is still not clear whether the CHE redevelopment will go through.
The two units which have been funded, according to the Beltline, were in the form of downpayment assistance on mortgages. The Beltline also claimed that the two units were affordable to families at 30 percent AMI.
However, according to Beltline’s answer to APN’s question number seven, “One household earns $18,200 per year making payments on a $50,315 mortgage. The other household earns $20,000 per year making payments on a $60,688 mortgage. The low mortgage amounts are due to layering of downpayment assistance programs and affordable housing prices.”
While the two families’ incomes may be at or near 30 percent of AMI [the household sizes would also need to be accounted for to determine that], it is not immediately clear whether the monthly mortgage payments are truly affordable to those families. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development defines affordability as a household not paying more than 30 percent of its monthly income towards housing; paying more than this is considered housing cost burden.
APN asked the Beltline what the actual monthly payments were on these two units, but the Beltine neglected to answer that part of the question.
APN also asked, “If more than 30 percent of their income, how is it not deceptive to say these are affordable at 30% AMI, when afforability is premised on not spending more than 30% of one’s income on housing?” The Beltline neglected to answer that part of question number seven as well, raising a red flag.
(END / 2011)