Atlanta Council Committee Approves Housing Ordinance Drafted By APN Editor
On Monday, November 09, 2015 the Community Development/Human Resources Committee (CD/HR) unanimously approved an ordinance that requires the City’s Office of Housing to prepare Affordable Housing Impact Statements for any policy decisions that affect housing in Atlanta.
The legislation was drafted by Matthew Charles Cardinale, founder and CEO of Atlanta Progressive News.
“We are at a crossroads right now in terms of affordable housing and gentrification,” Cardinale told Committee Members during his presentation to CD/HR Cmte Members.
“This will help us keep track of whether we are getting closer to or further away from our goals,” he said.
Cardinale has worked with Council members and city staff to refine the legislation over the past year.
Cardinale recently penned an editorial for the Saporta Report laying out the case for affordable housing impact statements.
“Tens of thousands of Atlanta households are cost-burdened, meaning they pay more than thirty percent of their income towards rent,” he wrote.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Politifact team questioned that assertion, but eventually concluded that it is one hundred percent true.
The proposed ordinance says that land use, zoning, acceptance of public grants related to housing, and blighted property legislation would all require an impact statement.
The statements would outline how many units of housing would be gained and lost at various income levels as a result of the project or other policy decision in question.
The first part of the statements would read:
This legislation, if enacted, is estimated to have a projected impact upon the affordable housing stock of the City of Atlanta over the Thirty (30) year period following the enactment of the legislation by:
Adding ___ or decreasing ___ units affordable at 30 or below percent of the City of Atlanta Area Median Income (AMI); and
Adding ___ or decreasing ___ units affordable between 30.01 and 50 percent of AMI; and
Adding ___ or decreasing ___ units affordable at between 50.01 and 80 percent of AMI; and
Adding ___ or decreasing ___ units affordable at over 80 percent of AMI.
The second part of the statements would provide narrative descriptions of any assumptions or data used to calculate the numbers identified in the first part.
Metro Atlanta’s AMI is 68,300 dollars.
CD/HR Cmte Chairman Andre Dickens (Post 3 At Large) called the legislation “one step in the right direction.”
“It will allow us to estimate and describe the impact various legislation will have on affordable housing in this city,” Dickens said.
The Affordable Housing Impact Statement ordinance also mandates that the Municipal Clerk’s office be tasked with archiving the statements so they can be used by stakeholders to identify trends over time.
Councilmember Keisha Lance Bottoms (District 11) asked whether the City has capacity to staff the job.
Terri Lee, Deputy Commissioner of the Planning Department, said she was confident the Department would have enough time to put a procedure in place before the legislation goes into effect.
The Council added additional funds for the Office of Housing in the City’s most recent recent fiscal year budget, which is currently in effect.
About twenty citizens at the Committee Meeting expressed support of Affordable Housing Impact Statements, including several who made public comment and several who at one point raised their hands in support.
Sherice Brown, a tenant organizer with Equal Justice Works, spoke during public comment about the need for more affordable housing.
“Housing it a basic human right… it’s a great concern when working with tenant organizations,” she said.
Anita Beaty, Director of Metro Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless also spoke.
“People are stuck in homelessness as the City eliminates emergency services. People are staying in emergency services longer and longer with some income, but not enough to access housing,” Beaty said.
Two cities, San Diego, California, and Austin, Texas, use affordable housing impact statements.
But they include only written descriptions of a policy’s impact, whereas this legislation is centered around on numerical data.
Several other cities are considering Cardinale’s model legislation.
Elected officials from two other Georgia cities have already expressed an interest in AHIS.
The City Council of Spokane, Washington–the city where Cardinale attends Law School at Gonzaga University–is holding a Study Session on Affordable Housing Impact Statements, and other proposals, on November 19, 2015.
Last month, in October 2015, Councilwoman Kshama Sawant of Seattle, Washington, promised to pursue AHIS, upon reelection. Sawant was reelected last week.
The City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is currently considering a version of AHIS that includes extensive language from the Atlanta proposal.
“If we pass this, we’ll be able to say we started an exciting national trend,” Cardinale told committee members.
The Affordable Housing Impact Statement ordinance will receive a full Council vote on Monday, November 16, 2015, where it will likely appear on the consent agenda.
If passed, it will go into effect on July 01, 2016.