Atlanta’s New Planning Commissioner Signals Concern for Housing Affordability
(APN) ATLANTA — Tim Keane, who began work as the City of Atlanta’s new Commissioner for the Department of Planning and Community Development in July 2015, says he is concerned about affordable housing for the City of Atlanta.
Keane is interested in “having this Department’s community development do much greater things than we’re doing now, particularly in ensuring a great diversity of people can live in the City, particularly low and moderate income people,” he told Atlanta Progressive News in an interview.
“The City is going to grow dramatically in the next twenty years. We want to go through a process with people to find out what that’s going to include,” Keane said.
“If we become more dense, we’re going to have to get much more creative when it comes to low and moderate income,” Keane said.
As first reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the City of Atlanta is exploring a mandatory inclusionary zoning policy, which was one of the recommendations of a recent report by the City and the Atlanta Development Authority (ADA d/b/a Invest Atlanta).
Inclusionary zoning is a policy where new multi-family housing developments are required to include a set-aside of affordable units.
Even in strong property rights states like Washington, cities–like Federal Way, Redmond, and Kirkland, Washington–have so far pursued IZ without challenge, when the policies have provided developers with bonuses for height or density.
Seattle is currently considering IZ, with Mayor Ed Murray taking the lead:
Commissioner Keane says he met with the ADA regarding IZ and is interested in exploring mandatory inclusionary zoning, especially in conjunction with incentives for developers.
While the ADA has been taking the lead on drafting an IZ policy for the City of Atlanta, Keane says he wants to bring the policy drafting process in-house.
“I met with them recently to see if the City could take ownership of that. The particulars of what been they’re proposing, I’m not familiar. I’m interested in getting involved to see something that would work,” Keane said.
According to a recent report by HR&A Advisors and Enterprise, Inc., on behalf of the City of Atlanta, tens of thousands of Atlanta households are cost-burdened, meaning that they pay more than thirty percent of their income towards rent.
This includes more than 25,000 cost-burdened renter households subsisting on 20,000 dollars or less per year; and about 13,000 cost-burdened renter households making between 20,000 and 34,999 dollars per year.
Keane also said he is interested in learning more about the held ordinance for Affordable Housing Impact Statements (AHIS) in the City of Atlanta.
Drafted by APN’s News Editor, and introduced by Councilmembers Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) and Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) in November 2014, the AHIS ordinance is pending before the Council’s Community Development/Human Resources Cmte.
If adopted by the City, Affordable Housing Impact Statements would be required for any legislation adopted by the Council that is estimated to have an impact on the affordable housing stock of the City of Atlanta. The statements would specify how many units are estimated to be added or subtracted at various income brackets.
Keane said he liked the idea of a “scorecard” to gauge the City’s progress in meeting its unmet affordable housing needs.
“I also think we have to look creatively at location, design, and financing of low and moderate income housing,” Keane said.
“Federal money is drying up. Every year Congress threatens to eliminate HOME. HOME moneys have gone down fifty percent,” Keane said.
“The idea that there’s going to be federal money in… [affordable] housing, is a proposition that just isn’t true any more,” Keane said.
“This is fundamentally important to the future of Atlanta. The demography can’t change such that Atlanta is a different place,” Keane said.
“I want to have a very significant public process around the design for the ultimate Atlanta, how we go from 500,000, very low density… how do we grow to a city of what we want to be? How does the city become more urban on one hand, but protect nature and conserve?” Keane said.
“It’s a very important issue as it relates to Atlanta becoming a better and better place to live, but we can’t ever get de-coupled from the idea that people with modest means can live here and thrive here,” Keane said.
Keane said that he wants Atlanta to develop in connection with a long-term plan and be less of a city of individual projects.
Keane–who moved from Charleston, South Carolina, to take this job; and previously worked in Davidson, North Carolina–is being referred to as a visionary and appears to have the full support of Mayor Kasim Reed in pursuing policy solutions.
Some at City Hall concerned with affordable housing appear to be optimistic.
“I am pleased to announce the appointment of Tim Keane as the Commissioner of our Department of Planning and Community Development,” Mayor Reed said in a statement.
“Tim brings the right expertise to help the Department the meet the long-term goals of my administration. I am confident that his experience, vision and exceptional commitment to public service will help our city continue to grow in ways that will benefit all our citizens,” Reed said.