APN Chat with Mayoral Candidate, Mary Norwood
HOW CAN WE INCREASE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN ATLANTA?
I’ve been an advocate for affordable housing and involved in it for years. In 2006, when I saw the City released its housing study, I looked at the rise in housing prices. The average price was $233,000. I had them broken down by zip code. I looked, there’s fraud in this.
As I started tracking, I said these values are artificially inflated.
A man named Scott Smith in Westview showed me 300 properties in one neighborhood where there were multiple sales between 2002 and 2005 per property.
The City developed out in concentric circles. People don’t realize [houses in the northern part of the City mirror those in the southern part]. You have what I call mirror houses.
[Showing APN a chart] There are 619 houses less than $140,000 in the zip codes between 30310 and 30318. 334 of these are under $100,000
This is the low-hanging fruit. People didn’t know about fraud. This is half the City’s land mass.
I got a neighborhood stabilization grant. Here’s the foreclosure crisis [pointing to a map], the northwest to southeast line. A lot of this was fraud.
We’ve got to get people back into those houses. We’ve got to knit those communities back together again.
We have prices now that have crashed, communities with vacant properties. In this one opportunity, we know there’s thousands.
When Housing Opportunity Bonds were getting ready [to be awarded], I got involved in requiring some for down payment assistance to put people back into housing. That was the Atlanta Development Authority Home Atlanta program. We put hundred of people in houses.
That’s affordable housing, when you have a house at $40,000 or $90,000.
The southern and northern parts of the cities are different racially and socioeconomically. If people who have the assets to do so start purchasing foreclosed homes in the southern part of Atlanta, would you be concerned about gentrification?
Houses sell one at a time.
What I’m finding in these communities, they’re delighted to have civic-minded, responsible homeowners another set of eyes on the street.
I understand [concerns about gentrification]. There’s almost 4,000 empty houses.
What is your definition of affordable housing?
All the way up and down the continuum. In some cases, in needs to be a rental. Shamrock Gardens won an award. One man named Brent Sobel renovated an old complex, kept it affordable. It is magical. He’s got security guys that nobody messes with. He took it back from the drug boys.
Land trusts, cooperatives, Atlanta needs more tools in the toolkit.
We’ve got a great built environment, great trees, a great housing stock.
GIVEN THE BUDGET SHORTFALLS AND THE RECENT CUTS TO POLICE AND FIRE, WOULD YOU SUPPORT EFFORTS TO MAKE MARIJUANA ENFORCEMENT THE LOWEST POLICE PRIORITY IN ATLANTA?
I don’t know enough about the issue to respond. I don’t have an opinion.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE TO ADDRESS VIOLENT CRIME IN ATLANTA?
It’s important to focus on, there’s about 400 repeat offenders in DC. I asked police higher ups, about how many are in Atlanta? He said about 500.
We have to disaggregate the people who are causing trouble. Who are the chronic offenders versus the first time? The strategy for these people needs to be different.
We have a city of 500,000 people. 500 repeat offenders is not an insurmountable problem. We need to have strategies to help with people with their doors kicked in.
My 12 point plan talks about everything from police officers living in the City, to working with the Fulton and Dekalb court systems, to what I call fixing broken windows on steroids.
We need a true housing program that entices. Let [police officers get] the increase in value [on their home].
MAYOR FRANKLIN HAD A TEN YEAR PLAN TO END HOMELESSNESS IN ATLANTA, BUT SOME SAY HOMELESSNESS HAS RISEN. WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENTLY? ALSO, WOULD YOU REINSTATE A FUNDING RECOMMENDATION FOR THE METRO ATLANTA TASK FORCE FOR THE HOMELESS, WHICH MAYOR FRANKLIN HAD RESCINDED?
Back before the Olympics, I would get panhandled. I would say, I don’t do that, but you clean up all the trash on this block and I’ll be back in 15 minutes. And if when I came back they had done it, I would give them money. I would travel around with garbage bags in my car. And people got to know me. They’d be like there’s this little lady
When the Olympics came, the City was in charge of the lots. We literally cleaned up all around the Olympic venues between the Dome and Atlanta University.
In 2002, I started up again. I raised private funds, got CDBG money. I wanted a work component to be front and center in ending homelessness.
I saw it not as a panacea. I assume most people want to earn money instead of panhandling. My idea was to take it regionally. We had a waiting list.
In 2005, we got the Georgia Department of Transportation to give $350,000 but because the City never authorized the payments or billed GDOT for the services, GDOT took the money back.
And as far as the Task Force?
Everyone who is helping, receiving money, there is a certain amount of responsibility. You really are responsible for your environments.
When you look at Cambleton Road [Shamrock Gardens], when you drive up, you don’t have all kinds of craziness within a foot of the property. It’s very important to be a good neighbor. It may be security around the property. The City does a disservice when we allow people not to be good neighbors.
I’m on record as saying, you need some security.
Think outside the box. How can you do it? If you guaranteed security for a mile around the property, people love that. They will want to have you come. They’ll be like, can we have one [a homeless shelter on our block]? Can we change the paradigm?
WHAT WOULD YOU DO ABOUT THE BUDGET SHORTFALL?
We have tremendous challenges, several drains to the General Fund. We wanted an accounting of every person on the payroll. What is your function? What do you do all day? We need to identify priorities. We need to do service delivery.
The Council will be presented with a budget. Hopefully, we will get the information we need. I sent out a survey last year asking employees for efficiencies. I got good information and shared it with [the Administration and others]. We redacted people’s personal information and IP’s.
In my seven years at City Hall, I have spent a lot of hours paying attention. At the end of the day, we never got a budget with actual tracking on a monthly basis. That’s one of the essentials.
Would you support raising property taxes?
No. We don’t know how much the City has, we don’t know how much the City owes. The numbers just came out Residents still haven’t gotten a full reporting in a manner in my view they are entitled to.
We need zero-based budgeting and performance-based metrics.
Were there cuts Franklin made you did not support?
The Council didn’t want furloughed police and fire.
APN RAISED SEVERAL CONCERNS ABOUT THE ATLANTA HOUSING AUTHORITY’S MASS DEMOLITION OF PUBLIC HOUSING, INCLUDING ISSUES OF RESIDENT INPUT, THE AVAILABILITY AND LOCATION OF VOUCHER HOUSING, AND AHA’S CLAIMS ABOUT THE CONDITIONS OF ITS BUILDINGS. WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO THE CONCERNS APN HAS RAISED ABOUT AHA’S POLICY?
What was apparent, there was a lot of different information from different places. When I did my due diligence, there was a lot of he said, she said.
A Mary Norwood Administration, I really like getting the key players together and quietly debating both sides. I really like hearing both arguments. When I do that, I typically, in hearing both sides can get a sense of what is correct and I usually come up with thinking outside the box.
When you look at the years I spent on infill, [professionals] came up with the rules that solved the problem.
I believe very much in a technical analysis with parties at the table who have an understanding of the issue.
I’m a big believer in oversight.
But what would be your response to the concerns APN raised?
I would probably have to go back and read your 60 articles. I really don’t remember and I don’t want to just give an answer.
Would you have signed off on the demolitions as Mayor Franklin did?
I can’t go back and tell you that. I can only tell you going forward.
WHAT CAN ATLANTA DO TO HELP MARTA?
When Beverly Scott first came to Atlanta, I met with her. I took her on a tour. She said, you have plenty of density, challenging topography, and narrow streets. She said I can’t get my buses down your streets.
You need jitneys, little vans on demand that take people where they want to do. They’re quicker and faster.
I was an early supporter of the Beltline. Things are not too far. We need little trams, for example from Monroe and 10th [one place the proposed Beltline would end] to Virginia Highlands.
When I did surveys, every part of the spectrum said reliable, quick, efficient.
The Beltline helps with that because the Beltline intersects the rail. It’s small piece of Atlanta. If you have that last critical half mile.
I’ve got a great relationship with Beverly now and we’ll be very supportive of MARTA.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT GENTRIFICATION RESULTING FROM THE BELTLINE?
You gotta disaggregate. When you disaggregate phrases like gentrification, you have 1/8 mile, 1/4 mile, 1 mile. The further out you get, if you’re one mile away, you don’t get the rise.
I agree with the affordable housing people. There have to be strategies for long-term affordability. Landtrusts, cooperatives, other tools. It’s important to have rentals that are affordable, safe, and decent.
We have to make sure people who’ve invested in the city can live here as long as they want to.
People think, she [Mary Norwood] lives in Buckhead. She lives on Habersham Road. She doesn’t get it. I do get it.
The people moving in, they’re young, couples, singles, a wonderful diverse group of people. I’ve been meeting them at meet and greets all over the City.
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Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News, and is reachable is email@example.com.
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