Atlanta Neighborhood Seeks to Improve Beltline Housing Policy


sherise brown(APN) ATLANTA — At its July 2021 meeting, City of Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit V, a neighborhood organization representing Atlanta’s Mechanicsville, Summerhill, Peoplestown, Pittsburgh, Adair Park, and Capitol Gateway neighborhoods, adopted a resolution seeking to amend the affordable housing requirements for new developments on the Atlanta Beltline to provide for truly affordable housing.


The resolution was also approved by the Peoplestown Neighborhood Association.


Specifically, the resolution seeks for the Atlanta City Council to amend the Inclusionary Zoning policy that it has in place for the Beltline Overlay District.


The amendment would provide an option for developers to comply with the affordable housing requirements by providing fewer units, but units that are truly affordable to families making zero to thirty percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).


Currently, developers are required to set aside either fifteen percent of their housing units located within the Beltline Overlay District, as affordable to families making eighty percent of the AMI or below; or ten percent of their units as affordable to families making sixty percent of the AMI or below.


The problem is, these so-called affordable housing units are not affordable to the low-income families who are most likely to be displaced by gentrification and who are least likely to have other affordable options on the market.


If introduced by a Councilmember and adopted by the Council, the proposed amendment would make the Beltline Overlay affordable housing requirements consistent with the Westside Park Overlay approved by the Council earlier this year.


As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the Westside Park Overlay added a compliance option at zero to thirty percent AMI, after NPU-K adopted a resolution calling for the amendment.


NPU-V Chairwoman Stephanie Flowers sent a copy of the resolution, along with a draft proposed ordinance making the amendments to the Beltline Overlay affordable housing requirements, to Councilmembers Carla Smith (District 1), Cleta Winslow (District 4), Joyce Sheperd (District 12), Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large), Matt Westmoreland (Post 2-at-large), and Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large).


Flowers also emailed the resolution and draft ordinance to Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms; and several members of the Bottoms administration.


andre dickens 2So far, NPU-V has received responses from Councilman Dickens, a candidate for Mayor of Atlanta who originally introduced the Beltline Inclusionary Zoning ordinance that passed in 2017.


At the time, APN reported that NPU-V took the lead in asking for a zero to thirty percent AMI compliance option when Councilman Dickens and his staff went around the whole city, presenting the Beltline Overlay IZ policy to every NPU.


Dickens assured NPU-V at the time, in 2017, that the Beltline Overlay IZ policy would be amended to include housing at zero to thirty percent AMI.  However, when the policy passed the Council, the language that Dickens promised was conspicuously missing.


“They’re looking for it not to be in there, because it’s in there if you ask me,” Dickens told APN at the time.


1578277130087Rodney M. Milton, Jr., a former City employee who now works for Atlanta Beltline, Inc., insisted at the time that the IZ policy included zero to thirty percent AMI housing  because it provided a compliance option at sixty percent AMI and below; and that zero to thirty percent AMI would be “below”.


For years, the City of Atlanta’s assorted gatekeepers of housing policy insisted it was not feasible to require housing units affordable at zero to thirty percent AMI.


bond surplus propertyIn 2016, Councilman Michael Julian Bond (Post 1-at-large) and then-Councilman Kwanza Hall (District 2) requested an analysis of the feasibility of requiring units affordable at zero to thirty percent AMI, when Dickens’s IZ policy was first proposed.  The Reed Administration promised to provide the information at the next committee meeting, but never did.


Atlanta Progressive News determined it was, in fact, feasible, after making an open records request to the City of Atlanta.  


By already approving the policy for the Westside Park Overlay, the City has essentially already admitted it is feasible.


“I think this is an opportunity to implement the zero to thirty percent AMI into the new developments, because that is the AMI that never gets addressed and that’s the most unmet need,” Sherise Brown, a member of NPU-V who promoted the initiative, told Atlanta Progressive News.


“When we talk about ‘affordable’, the low-income families are the ones left out of the new developments.  I don’t think it’s fair, equal, or inclusionary because they’re being left out,” Brown said.


“When you’re talking about affordable housing, I don’t know how you leave out the most vulnerable – people who work hard but can’t pay for a home or shelter,” Brown said.


“This is a way we can implement it,” Brown said.  “It’s a small portion, but every little bit counts – that’s more families getting into the homes.”


“I think people do deserve to live in beautification when it comes into their community.  They don’t need to just sit and look out the window at it being built,” Brown said.


“I think people do better when they’re around different mixed incomes, instead of being secluded to one little area,” she said.


“And I hope that the City Council and the Mayor will support this ordinance,” she said.


“When this passed through the NPU-K, I felt like this would be perfect to implement in NPU-V,” Brown said.


“We see the development that comes in through here and there’s nothing that isn’t luxury, but there’s nothing that’s zero to thirty,” Brown said.


“I thought, why not us?  Let’s try this.  People deserve a place to call home.  I applaud NPU-K for taking the initiative,” Brown said.


“If we sit back at what they shove down our throats, it will never be what the community sees the need is.  We know what’s best for our communities, especially legacy tenants.”


(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)

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