Addressing the need to create more affordable housing near the Beltline is an issue the Atlanta Beltline, Inc. (ABI) board said they are ready to tackle head on. The board and ABI staff discussed the challenge at length during an ABI board meeting on Wednesday morning.
“We have a crisis in affordability…This is real,” Paul Morris, CEO of ABI, told board members. Morris noted the issue is not just near the Beltline, or even just in Atlanta, but has become an issue in many areas of the country.
ABI had set a target of creating 5,600 units of affordable housing over the coming years, but Morris said they are aware that does not adequately address the need, noting that 10,000 units would probably come closer to addressing the need.
The board discussed several different options to increase the funds allocated for affordable housing in 2017. The initial budget had less than $1 million allocated, but after looking at various options, that funding has now been increased to $1.1 million. The goal is to reach at least $2.1 million in funding for affordable housing for 2017, said John Somerhalder, chairman of the board.
Board members discussed the option of allocating additional funding later this year when ABI issues more bonds or possibly using funds from the reserve.
Board members Ernestine Garey, appointed by Invest Atlanta, and Councilman Andre Dickens both urged the board to take action as soon as possible to find the funds and to move forward with plans to create more affordable housing.
“It is critical that we do this. Every month we don’t do it, there are people affected,” Dickens said. Dickens also said it was important to focus on keeping affordable housing near the Beltline, and not just in neighborhoods several miles away.
Also in question is exactly how ABI funds can be used for affordable housing. According to the way requirements are written now, TAD, or tax allocation district, funds cannot be used for single family housing. ABI would like to use those funds, but they don’t think it is possible under the current requirements. Money used for single family housing is often eligible for matching federal funds and grants, which stretches local dollars.
Morris told the board they have asked for legal advice and clarification on the exactly how TAD funds can be used. He said he thought it was best not to vote on additional funding until they have all the information. The board agreed to meet again in a special called meeting after getting the additional information.
Housing prices in Atlanta have increased recently, creating challenges for the city as a whole. But prices in some areas near the Beltline have increased dramatically. Realtors recently told Atlanta Loop that in some areas such as Adair Park and Eastside Beltline/Atlanta home prices have nearly doubled in the last few years.
The Black Lives Matter movement in Atlanta has also raised concerns about housing affordability, adding it to the list of items they want the city to address.
In other topics discussed during the board meeting, ABI and outside consultants have completed a document they call the Unified Plan that compiles many other documents and incorporates master plans from the various subareas within the Beltline.
“This is the Cliff notes to all things Beltline,” Lynnette Reid, Senior Community Planner at ABI told board members.
As part of the Unified Plan, ABI is also working with the city of Atlanta to create a new zoning category that Reid described as industrial mix. ABI plans to use this type of zoning category to revitalize old industrial zones. It will include some industrial zone elements, but also include mixed use development.
Reid said the city would like to use the zoning category in areas outside the Beltline and plans to create city-wide legislation. She said she did not have a timeline when the city would complete the process or when the Beltline might begin to implement the new zone.
The board also heard plans about the Murphy Crossing site development in southwest Atlanta. This area is near Murphy Avenue Southwest and Warner Street Southwest. ABI has had several meetings with community members in the area and is mapping out goals for the next five years that include stabilizing the area and beginning to utilize greenspaces.
ABI will hold another community meeting on August 25 to further discuss the plans for the Murphy Crossing site.