Beltline TADAC Report: Refine Affordable Housing Program
(APN) ATLANTA — The Atlanta Beltline is not meeting its affordable housing goals and its affordable housing program needs to be refined, according to a report commissioned by the Atlanta Beltline Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee (TADAC), entitled Atlanta Beltline: Five Year Work Plan 2006 – 2010 review.
The report is noteworthy because as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, both Atlanta Beltline Inc. (ABI) and the Atlanta Development Authority (ADA) have spent the last several years opposing any requirement for a set-aside of units affordable to low-income families for any multi-family developments receiving dollars from the Beltline Affordable Housing Trust Fund (BAHTF).
ABI and the ADA opposed any affordable housing requirements designed to benefit low-income families in Atlanta even though such requirements were recommended by the Beltline Affordable Housing Advisory Board (BAHAB).
TADAC and BAHAB are the two advisory boards to the Atlanta Beltline, made up of community members appointed by the City of Atlanta, Fulton County, and the Atlanta Independent School System.
The report recommends that the Atlanta Beltline should attempt to leverage BAHTF dollars with Low-Income Housing Tax Credits to produce meaningful affordable housing for low-income families.
And it notes that the City of Portland, Oregon, has done something very similar, leveraging tax increment dollars with LIHTCs to produce multi-family affordable housing with a set aside of 31 percent of units affordable to families making at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income [called Median Family Income in Portland], and the balance of the units affordable to making making between 30 and 60 percent.
“Similar to ABI’s requirement to set aside 15 percent of TAD bond proceeds, the Portland Development Commission (PDC) has a long-standing requirement to set aside portions of its tax increment for affordable housing,” the report states. In Portland, they have Urban Renewal Areas (URAs) instead of Tax Allocation Districts (TADs).
“In 2006, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance establishing a TIF [tax increment fund] Set Aside in URAs, requiring all newly formed URAs to spend a minimum of 30 percent of total TIF resources on affordable housing,” the report states.
Portland’s set-aside percentage is twice that of Atlanta’s, thirty percent instead of fifteen; and it covers the entire tax increment amount, whereas in Atlanta it is only a portion of any Beltline TAD bonds taken out and is only limited to one TAD, the Beltline TAD.
“PDC’s affordable housing program has resulted in the expenditure of $153 M of set-aside funds during the first five years of implementation, exceeding the goal of $121 M. This dramatic success includes 31 percent spent on rental housing serving households earning from 0 to 30 percent of MFI, with the balance serving households between 30 and 60 percent MFI,” the report states.
Therefore, despite the fact that ABI and the ADA insist that it is so cost-prohibitive and impossible to house low-income families in the City of Atlanta, the report demonstrates that this work is already being done in Portland, Oregon.
“They’re able to do that in Portland because the poor people there look like everybody else,” Joe Beasley, southern regional director for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, told Atlanta Progressive News, referring to the higher racial homogeneity in Portland.
“We’ve got all these condos in Atlanta that are sitting empty that probably got Empowerment Zone money, but they’re too good for these negroes,” Beasley said, implying that racism and not classism is what drives the Atlanta political establishment’s gentrification policies and their refusal to provide affordable housing that would benefit for the most needy families.
“But in Portland, their poor people are good people, they’ll probably take care of the place,” Beasley said.
Portland’s “goals illustrate the deep commitment of the City of Portland and its elected officials to generating a robust, targeted affordable housing funding source which addresses those households with the greatest need for affordable housing assistance,” the report said.
Dr. Dwanda Farmer, PhD in Community Economic Development, tells APN that the lack of political will is all that is missing in Atlanta. She notes that all of the redevelopment of public housing communities under the HOPE VI program in Atlanta leveraged LIHTC funds; therefore, there are housing experts in Atlanta who already know how to leverage LIHTC funds when there is a political will to do so. In the case of the HOPE VI redevelopments, the political will was premised upon the mass destruction of public housing communities across the City of Atlanta.
TADAC was established by a resolution of the City Council of Atlanta in 2006 and is supposed to have between 42 and 45 members. Today, the report notes it has only 27 members and meets bi-monthly.
TADAC is tasked, among other things, with making recommendations on the issuance of TAD bond proceeds; monitoring effective and equitable implementation of the Atlanta BeltLine plan; implementing a decision support tool to measure impact; and conducting an independent review of a five-year work plan.
Thus, creating this report is one of the primary purposes of TADAC.
The other advisory board for the Beltline, BAHAB, is tasked with recommending how BAHTF dollars should be spent; and monitoring the Beltline’s progress towards its affordable housing goals.
To date, all of the BAHTF dollars have been spent on downpayment assistance on single-family homes and condos, benefitting middle-class families making as much as 110 percent of AMI. Housing that is affordable to low-income families, however, presents the greatest shortage in all of Atlanta’s housing stock.
The TADAC report also includes findings and recommendations related to financial accounting as well as the roles of BAHAB and TADAC themselves.
Beasley told APN that he had been nominated by Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell (District 5) to serve on TADAC to watch over the Beltline to address the issue of gentrification and to ensure that the community would benefit from Beltline-related jobs.
However, Beasley said he stopped attending the meetings because he became frustrated that TADAC did not have any authority because the powers of TADAC were merely advisory, and the meetings were therefore a waste of his time.
He said that he believes Beltline’s governance needs to be entirely restructured and that the community advisory boards should be “partners” that share decision-making authority.
The report found BAHAB and TADAC faced challenges including, “Limited ABI resources provided to staff TADAC and its subcommittees.”
Thus, despite the 23 full-time staff members at ABI, costing millions of dollars per year in overhead, there was still not enough to assist BAHAB and TADAC to function.
The list of problems also included, “Limited and/or inconsistent reporting and information-flow from ABI to TADAC for its review prior to major decisions being made; Lack of clear mechanisms and processes to transmit TADAC advisement to ABI/ADA; [and] Different views regarding whether TADAC’s role is limited to advisement on bond proceeds’ expenditures or all ABI projects.”
“Both bodies [BAHAB and TADAC] have extensive talent and experience in community development, revitalization, affordable housing, economic development, finance, and the myriad of issues which will continue to affect the BeltLine’s transformative capacity. Both committees’ talent pool, and stakeholder input are necessary to BeltLine’s ultimate success. Unfortunately, while both committees have been formed and commenced operations, and both committees have published extensive recommendations since their inception, the current status of these advisory bodies indicates that they have not achieved their full promise,” the report states.
Jennette Gayer, a TADAC member who serves as a representative of Citizens for Progressive Transit (CPT) and is Executive Director of Environment Georgia, said she has been serving for about a year on TADAC and is still trying to gain a grasp of how TADAC is supposed to fulfill its purpose.
“It seems like TADAC can certainly get a response from the Beltline. The response is maybe not always as in-depth as you would want it. Some of it, maybe the members of TADAC don’t go in depth as necessary,” Gayer said.
Gayer said she found the recent audit by City of Atlanta Auditor Leslie Ward on Atlanta’s ten Tax Allocation Districts, including the Beltline TAD, to be “really interesting.” That audit, among other things, revealed several questionable expenditures by ABI.
“I kind of see my role as CPT representative, to continue to push transit, but then I was like, maybe we should be looking at every single requisition?” she said.
“In the first year, I have definitely struggled with, how does TADAC work, how does it get things done, how does it make recommendations, how does it follow up with those recommendations?” she said.
“Certainly changes need to happen,” Gayer said.