Dickens Betrays Low-Income Atlantans, Again, Sabotages Housing Ordinance
(APN) ATLANTA — Once again, Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large), candidate for Mayor of Atlanta, has shown his contempt for low-income families and that he will stop at nothing to prevent them from having affordable housing options in Atlanta.
DICKENS’S SABOTAGE OF 2021 HOUSING ORDINANCE
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, in September 2021, at the request of Neighborhood Planning Unit V and Peoplestown Neighborhood Association, Councilman Dickens introduced legislation designed to produce more affordable housing that is truly affordable to low-income families.
This indicates that Dickens wanted to score the political points of introducing legislation to actually, for once, help working families in Atlanta, while knowing he had no intention to advocate for it and that it would never pass as long as he was the sponsor.
The proposed ordinance is City of Atlanta Ordinance 21-O-0713, and Electronic Legislative Management System (ELMS) #26838.
Dickens introduced the ordinance as a personal paper at the September 08, 2021 meeting. Council President Felicia A. Moore, who is also running for Mayor of Atlanta, referred the paper to Zoning Committee, where it never arrived.
The paper went to the Department of Planning first to be send out to the Beltline-area Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU’s) and Zoning Review Board (ZRB).
At that time, the Department of Planning said there was enough time to send the legislation to the Beltline-area NPU’s, ZRB, and the Zoning Committee of the City Council of Atlanta, before going to Full Council, before the end of the year and the current 2018-2021 Council Term.
The Department then asked Dickens whether he wanted the paper to be circulated to the neighborhoods; but he decided to allow the paper to linger instead.
The paper did not appear on the October or November NPU agendas, due to his decision.
“The author of the paper has not said how he would like me to proceed”, Holmes wrote.
Inaction is a form of action. Next year, Dickens will not even be on the Council, given that he is running for Mayor of Atlanta, so he has basically run the clock on his own ordinance.
Fortunately, APN has secured commitments from multiple candidates for City Council to reintroduce the legislation next year, when Dickens will no longer be able to sabotage it. In addition, at least one incumbent supports reintroducing the ordinance next year.
If Dickens intended to stall the ordinance, he should have let NPU-V and Peoplestown find someone else who actually would do the job of a legislator.
DICKENS’S BAIT AND SWITCH OF 2017 HOUSING ORDINANCE
But this is not even the first time Dickens has abandoned and tricked low-income families with regard to the exact same issue:
As previously reported by APN, in 2016 and 2017, when Dickens introduced his Inclusionary Zoning legislation that requires affordable housing in new developments on the Atlanta Beltline, he defined “affordable housing” to mean units renting at sixty and eighty percent of the Area Median Income, or over one thousand or fifteen hundred dollars per month in rent – which is not affordable to the low-income families being gentrified out of Atlanta.
Dickens assured NPU-V, NPU-W, and others at the time, in 2017, that the Beltline Overlay IZ policy would be amended to include an option for developers to provide housing at zero to thirty percent AMI.
However, when the policy passed the Council, the language that Dickens promised was conspicuously missing.
Dickens claimed in a text message exchange with APN at the time, to not know what was in his own legislation on the day it came up before Full Council.
He claimed there were provisions for zero to thirty percent AMI in the legislation, even though they were not there.
Rodney 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”.
“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.
“Let’s say thirty percent AMI – that means somebody that makes twenty thousand dollars a year. That person shows up at AMLI Ponce. AMLI Ponce has a requirement, I believe, for up to sixty percent AMI. That person is not disallowed from putting in a application [sic]. They are first come, first serve,” Dickens said.
The idea that developers will approve rental applications from individuals who can afford to pay 550 dollars a month, to comply with their requirement to offer units at 1,100 dollar per month or below, is wishful thinking to say the least.
“When we say inclusion, we mean including everyone, not just a certain percentage or AMI,” Sherise Brown told Atlanta Progressive News at the time.
“We asked Andre Dickens when he was at our NPU-V October  meeting. Before we voted, we asked, a couple people asked the question, we ought to include zero to thirty AMI into this Inclusionary Zoning, and he said ‘Yes, sure.’ Others asked him things in light of that with zero to thirty, and he said yes,” Brown said.
“My understanding, it’s for teachers, nurses, and firefighters. When I talk about affordable, I’m talking about zero to thirty percent – they’re making stagnant wages, and they can’t afford to live in the Inclusionary Zoning,” Brown said.
The issue strikes at the heart of gentrification, displacement, and the ability of “legacy residents” to continue to live in Atlanta.
As usual, the Dickens Campaign did not respond to an inquiry from APN seeking comment.
THE GHOST OF PUBLIC HOUSING COMMUNITIES PAST
Dickens wants to make it seem like he supports mixed-income communities in Atlanta, but in reality low-income people will never be part of that mix.
This is consistent with the policies of former Mayor Shirley Franklin, Dickens’s protege, who caused the displacement of thousands of Atlantans by supporting the demolition of numerous public housing communities and senior highrises.
Of note, the only Councilmember to champion legislation on behalf of low-income seniors and public housing residents was Felicia A. Moore, then the District 9 Councilwoman.
Moore’s ordinances seeking transparency and consultation regarding then-proposed public housing demolitions passed City Council over a Mayoral veto by then-Mayor Franklin.
When Dickens first ran for office in 2013, he told APN in an interview that he did not think Atlanta had an affordable housing problem because there were so many foreclosed homes for sale.
He has gone to present himself as a chief advocate for affordable housing in Atlanta, but his actions belie such a presentation.
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2021)