Atlanta Council Approves New Affordable Housing Requirement for Development Authority Deals, with New Option at 60% AMI
(APN) ATLANTA — At the Monday, May 02, 2016 Full Council Meeting of the City Council of Atlanta, the Council approved, in a vote of fourteen to one, a new ordinance by Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) to require a set-aside of affordable housing units in new multi-family housing developments receiving funds from a development authority doing business in the City of Atlanta. Howard Shook (District 7) voted nay.
The ordinance, substituted once in Committee, then again on the floor of Full Council, incorporated two rounds of changes sought by advocates in the wake of coverage by Atlanta Progressive News and an Editorial by the present writer.
“We heard from both the community and from developers and we incorporated some of their great ideas… The greater collaboration on this effort provided options for even deeper affordability standards,” Dickens said in a press release.
The first round of changes removed objectionable language from the ordinance that would have altered the City’s definition of “affordable housing” and would have eliminated strong affordable housing goals that were adopted by the City of Atlanta in 2001. Those code sections remain intact.
The second round of changes added a new provision offering developers an option to produce a set-aside of ten percent of the units, affordable at sixty percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or apartments affordable at around 690 dollars or less per month. This is in addition to the option that was already in the ordinance, to provide a set-aside of fifteen percent of units at 80 percent AMI.
This amendment was consistent with draft language provided by Atlanta Progressive News, that activist Sherise Brown delivered to City Hall on Friday, to a meeting of stakeholders organized by Councilman Dickens.
To be sure, many activists had sought requirements for the production of units with rental prices even lower than 60 percent AMI, given that the greatest unmet need is for those families making thirty percent of AMI and below.
Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong (District 5) questioned this issue during the Council debate and had sought for the ordinance to be sent back to Committee.
However, Dickens urged that the ordinance be passed because, currently, developers are going to the Fulton County Development Authority and DeKalb County Development Authority to build completely market rate apartment buildings within the City of Atlanta. And this new requirement–the first requirement to pass in the City of Atlanta in many years–is better than nothing.
Dawn Luke with the Atlanta Development Authority (d/b/a “Invest Atlanta”) argued that the requirement could not be too burdensome for developers that they would opt not to take an incentive.
Archibong also said she wanted the definition of affordability used in the City of Atlanta to only reference City of Atlanta incomes. Currently, the definition used by the City, and also by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, references incomes in the Metro area that includes Sandy Springs and Marietta.
Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean (District 8) also expressed great interest in changing the geographic reference point for the definition.
Luke replied that this would present a challenge because those figures are currently not published.
Dickens was thrilled with the legislation’s passage and has promised to continue to engage stakeholders, including advocates and developers, both non-profit and for-profit, in an ongoing conversation that will likely include such measures as Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning and an Affordable Housing Trust Fund.
“Mixed income communities have a proven track record of improving our community outcomes. We ensured in the ordinance that the affordable housing units would be similar in construction and appearance (e.g., square footage, type and brand of appliances, materials used for countertops, flooring, etc.) to the market rate units and would not be in isolated areas in the development, but interspersed among the market rate units,” Dickens said.
Dickens acknowledged several organizations who participated in the debate and discourse around this ordinance: “GA Stand-Up, Georgia Act, ANDP (Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership), Council for Quality Growth, Apartment Association, Progressive Redevelopment, APN (Atlanta Progressive News), HDDC (Historic District Development Corporation), AFSC (American Friends Service Committee), SILC of GA, Dragon Group, Selig Enterprises, Novare Group, ULI (Urban Land Institute), the CIDs (Community Improvement Districts), and so many others.”
“This ordinance is a tangible step forward to help Atlantans today and into the future but this is just one step to creating real affordable housing in Atlanta. I look forward to continuing to collaborate with this Council and Mayor to provide realistic housing opportunities that help to improve the lives of all Atlantans,” Dickens said.
Many of the development projects that will be subject to this new requirement, which will take effect on July 01, 2016, will already be receiving public financing–such as Low-income Housing Tax Credits, Community Development Block Grants, and HOME–which will already have stronger affordability requirements than the ones in the requirement.
Therefore, the new affordable units that will result from this new requirement will result from for-profit developer market rate projects that would otherwise have zero affordable units.