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Atlanta

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Locality: Atlanta, Georgia (USA)
City Population: 498,044 (2018)
Metro Population: 5.9 million (2018)

Plan Title: One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan
Date of Plan: June 2019
Date of Case Study: December 2019

Substantive highlights

The One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan (“the Plan”) focuses on actions to create and preserve homes that are affordable to those making incomes below 120% AMI, with emphasis on those making less than 60% AMI.

Principal goals of the plan include:

  1. Create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes by 2026 and increase overall supply
  2. Invest $1 billion from public, private, and philanthropic sources in the production and preservation of affordable housing
  3. Ensure equitable growth for all Atlantans and minimize displacement
  4. Support innovation and streamline processes

Other quantifiable goals included in the plan:

  • Preserve more than 4,100 affordable rental units through RAD by 2026
A key feature of the Plan is its comprehensiveness. A product of a coordinated effort among five city agencies with responsibility for housing, the Plan includes policies related to development subsidies, zoning, tax policy, and anti-displacement and anti-discrimination. It covers both rental and homeownership. While the focus is on the production and preservation of dedicated affordable housing, it also includes a goal of increasing overall supply and a number of initiatives (such as zoning to support “missing middle” housing and decreases in parking requirements) designed to boost supply. The Plan’s fourth goal, supporting innovation and streamlining processes, consists of a variety of ways to expand awareness of and increase participation in affordable housing programs. The Plan asserts that even the best laid plans have limited impact if the people they benefit are not aware of them. To ensure maximum benefit, the Plan includes a communications campaign, affordable housing fairs, the establishment of a Housing Innovation Lab, and suggestions for increasing community engagement.

Process

The One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan was developed through a coordinated interagency process chaired by Terri Lee, the newly appointed Chief Housing Officer for the City of Atlanta. Key participating agencies included (in alphabetical order): Atlanta Beltline (a major redevelopment project), Atlanta Housing (the local public housing authority), the Department of City Planning, the Fulton County / City of Atlanta Land Bank Authority, and Invest Atlanta (the City’s economic development authority). Bloomberg Associates and Abt Associates provided consulting support to the City as it developed the Plan.

The Plan was preceded by a practitioner-driven process called HouseAtl, coordinated by staff from ULI Atlanta, the Center for Civic Innovation, and Central Atlanta Progress. This effort was informed by more than 200 taskforce participations, including approximately 75 who staffed five working groups related to affordable housing production, preservation and community retention. Among other recommendations of HouseATL were: the appointment of a Chief Housing Officer to coordinate the City’s work, the establishment of a goal of creating or preserving at least 20,000 units, and the establishment of a funder’s collective that would coordinate affordable housing investments among private and philanthropic stakeholders and between the public and private sectors. All three of these recommendations have been accepted by the City.

While the Plan was not informed by its own stakeholder or community engagement process, it relied on and benefitted from the stakeholder and community engagement process that went into development HouseATL’s recommendation, as well as from continued coordination with HouseATL during the development of the City’s plan. The similarities and overlap between the two plans appear to also have contributed to the development of support for the City’s plan.

Metrics, targets, and implementation

The strategy will be implemented by the five agencies who developed it, coordinated by the City’s Chief Housing Officer. Progress will be tracked through a series of 13 metrics noted below. These metrics include two specific numeric targets: Create or preserve 20,000 affordable homes by 2026 and Invest $1 billion from public, private, and philanthropic sources in the production and preservation of affordable housing Metrics to be tracked during implementation of the Plan: Metrics to be tracked during implementation of the Plan

Implementation status

The Plan was issued in June 2019. As of this summary (December 2019), the City was still early in the process of implementing the strategy and no outcomes have yet been published.

Coverage of four policy pillars

Not Covered Moderate FocusA pillar is a Moderate Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy addresses it, but in a minor or secondary way, such as by including only one policy of modest projected impact from the pillar. Substantial FocusA pillar is a Substantial Focus of a housing strategy when the strategy includes policies falling within multiple functional subcategories of that pillar or at least one policy projected to have a large impact.
Create and preserve dedicated affordable housing units
Promote affordability by reducing barriers to new supply
Help households access private-market homes
Protect against displacement and poor housing conditions

Participating agencies

No Role Supporting Role Leading Role
Office of the Mayor
Office of the City/County Manager
Housing Department
Planning Department
Development Agency
Permitting/Inspections Department
Finance/Tax Department
Public Housing Authority
City/County Council

Policy tools

The Plan identifies the following policy tools/proposals, organized according to the categories listed below:

Leverage vacant public land for housing

  • Expedite the development of affordable housing on vacant, publicly-owned land
  • Expedite the development of blighted, vacant, delinquent, and distressed properties

Create and expand housing affordability tools

  • Expand local homeownership via down payment assistance programs
  • Expand the joint use of 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credits with Tax Exempt Bonds
  • Preserve housing through the Rental Assistance Demonstration program
  • Support the ability to secure additional resources through the New Markets Tax Credits program

Revise the Zoning Code

  • Explore the feasibility of expanding Atlanta’s Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance
  • Implement the “Missing Middle” Housing Ordinance
  • Implement the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) Ordinance
  • Reduce parking requirements citywide
  • Incentivize affordable housing near transit

Maximize existing funding sources

  • Increase utilization and access to the Urban Enterprise Zone Program
  • Leverage existing federal funds
  • Maximize the use of rental assistance through tenant-based rental assistance programs

Develop new funding sources

  • Expand the Housing Opportunity Bond Program
  • Establish a recurring local financing source dedicated to affordable housing
  • Develop a scattered-site bond finance program
  • Explore the creation of a vacant and underutilized property tax or fee
  • Monetize a lease-purchase bond program
  • Create and fund a gap financing alliance

Increase philanthropic and private investment in affordable housing

  • Leverage Opportunity Zone investments
  • Join the Cross-Sector Funders Collective

Prevent involuntary displacement

  • Explore the feasibility of expanding the anti-displacement tax fund within rapidly developing neighborhoods
  • Update and monitor the City of Atlanta Displacement Vulnerability Map
  • Require community retention plans for at-risk neighborhoods
  • Expand energy efficiency and home rehabilitation programs
  • Increase the number of people taking advantage of the City tax exemptions and state mortgage assistance
  • Expand access to eviction defense and/or other pro bono or low-cost housing-related legal services
  • Strengthen emergency and/or short-term rental assistance programs
  • Expand the number of homes kept affordable by community land trusts
  • Pursue source-of-income protections for renters
  • Enhance the effectiveness of anti-discrimination policies
  • Promote Voucher accessibility

Explore the expansion of property tax programs for the creation and preservation of affordable housing

  • Advocate for a property tax homestead exemption for the Community Land Trust homeowners
  • Explore the feasibility of expanding homestead exemptions and increasing the homestead exemption amount

Expand awareness of and increase participation in housing affordability programs

  • Conduct a citywide “Affordable Atlanta” communications campaign
  • Launch “Affordable Atlanta” fairs
  • Increase developers’ and landlords’ awareness of incentives and programs designed for them

Establish a Housing Innovation Lab

  • Enable the private market
  • Offer technical assistance to non-profit developers and no-profit organizations
  • Partner on major development sites

Continually improve building and zoning codes

  • Create a Code Innovation Team

Improve our system for developing and delivering affordable housing

  • Monitor and coordinate the pipeline of proposed projects containing affordable units
  • Streamline the permitting process for affordable housing projects

Enhance community engagement

  • Implement innovative techniques to support community engagement

Income groups targeted

Little/No Focus Moderate Focus Substantial Focus
0-30% AMI
30-60% AMI
60-80% AMI
80-120% AMI
Market Rate

Principal housing policy objectives

Which linkages with housing are addressed?

  • ✓   Education
  • ✓   Environment / Energy
  • ✓   Health
  • ✓   Transportation

Which local funding sources are proposed?

  • ✓ General obligation bonds
  • ✓ Dedicated revenue source (Ex: exploring various options)
  • ✓ Linkage fees
  • ✓ Tax abatements, credits, or exemptions
  • ✓ Housing opportunity bond program (for 3,500 homes)

Additional resources

The following are the specific Actions, and the City Agencies and Partners they are assigned to, in order to implement each of the Plan’s stated goals:

Atlanta Goals

Atlanta Goals

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