Atlanta City Council Passes Affordable Housing Impact Statements
(APN) ATLANTA — The City Council of Atlanta passed an ordinance providing for Affordable Housing Impact Statements in a unanimous vote of fourteen to zero at its Full Council Meeting on today, Monday, November 16, 2015.
The ordinance passed as part of today’s Consent Agenda. Councilwoman Cleta Winslow (District 4) was absent.
The ordinance was drafted by the present writer, Matthew Charles Cardinale, CEO and News Editor of Atlanta Progressive News.
The ordinance now heads to Mayor Kasim Reed’s desk. Reed’s administration has already spoken in favor of the legislation.
Starting July 01, 2016, Affordable Housing Impact Statements will be required for any legislation considered by the City Council of Atlanta that is estimated to have an impact on the housing stock of the City of Atlanta.
Examples include: acceptance of federal grant dollars, land use papers, and other types of legislation.
“I believe we need to start taking meaningful steps to increase quality housing options for the workforce of the City of Atlanta,” Councilmember Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) said in a press release.
“This will provide us an estimate of affordable housing increases and decreases by policies and city actions. Hopefully, today we took an important first step to improve the lives of the people of Atlanta,” Dickens said.
The Impact Statements will center around the numerical impacts in terms of numbers of units estimated to be added or subtracted at different income levels, containing a framework as follows:
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 municipal clerk will maintain a repository for the Impact Statements, which will allow stakeholders to gauge the trends of policymaking in the City of Atlanta.
Also, the Office of Housing will provide a yearly report to the Community Development/Human Resources (CD/HR) Committee on any housing units funded in whole or in part by public grant dollars, for which Affordable Housing Impact Statements have been prepared within a thirty year period.
The report shall specify whether the units still exist, whether they are occupied, and whether the cost for those units is consistent with the affordability price points identified in the original grant application.
This reporting feature will address a long-term concern of affordable housing advocates: the lack of monitoring and enforcement of promised affordable units for which benefits have been provided by the City of Atlanta.
As Chair of CD/HR and Board Member for both Invest Atlanta and the Atlanta BeltLine for the last two years, Councilman Dickens has been collaborating with others to improve housing options for Atlantans, including looking at what national best practices can be implemented here.
While two cities–Austin, Texas, and San Diego, California–have used Affordable Housing Impact Statements for some time, they have differed in that their statements ask more open-ended or narrative questions.
The version adopted by Atlanta, and drafted by APN’s News Editor, is more centered around numbers of units, and adds additional features such as the repository and the annual reporting.
Another version of AHIS, also based on the same draft, is currently pending with the City of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Planning Commission.
Meanwhile, this Thursday, November 19, 2015, the Spokane City Council will be hearing a series of proposals drafted by APN’s Editor, including AHIS.
It appears that the Atlanta Council’s approval of AHIS may be just the beginning of a national trend of adopting such a policy, as a means to hold policymakers accountable for the consequences of their decisions.
Next year, numerous substantive policies to address affordable housing are likely to continue to be a subject of consideration by the Council, including mandatory inclusionary zoning with unit bonuses; tiny houses; and land bank authority policies. AHIS will give the Council and stakeholders a tool to compare these proposals in terms of their estimated potential positive impact on Atlanta’s affordable housing stock.