Affordable housing advocates appeal to city for more rent payment assistance during pandemic
By Sean Keenan
The escalating coronavirus crisis has amplified the need for affordable housing in Atlanta and beyond, experts have said.
Although people living in government-subsidized homes are currently protected against eviction, those in Atlanta’s other affordable units — many of whom have been laid off as the virus cripples the global economy — could be struggling to pay rent and potentially forced onto the streets in the midst of the pandemic.
In response, a coalition of affordable housing advocates in the city are lobbying Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the Atlanta City Council for support and protection in these unprecedented times.
On March 23, Alison Johnson, of the Housing Justice League, and Kate Little, of Georgia STAND-UP, penned a letter to Atlanta’s elected officials, vying for more funding for rent assistance for those in need.
“We applaud the mayor and the City Council for creating a $7 million emergency fund to provide assistance to those impacted by COVID-19,” says the letter, nodding to resources allocated toward food programs, homeless preparedness, support for small businesses, and help for hourly wage workers, among others.
The mayor’s office also told SaportaReport in a statement, “The provision of emergency rental assistance is considered and included within several categories under the COVID-19 emergency funds created by Mayor Bottoms’ executive order.”
But more can be done, Johnson and Little believe.
With various organizations and agencies working to provide food in emergencies, such as Atlanta Public Schools and the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the need to ensure people have access to secure housing “is of even more urgency,” the letter says.
“Hotels, restaurants, the airport, and the like have had to lay off staff in reaction to the need for the general public to self-isolate, except in cases of essential job functions,” it adds. “These low-wage workers who will go without paychecks for an undetermined length of time need not only food, but shelter. It doesn’t do much good to provide food to families about to be evicted due to non-payment of rent.”
With April rent payments due so soon, Johnson and Little have called on city officials to bolster the emergency assistance fund to help prevent people from being pushed out of their homes and forced into homelessness or, potentially, crowded and dangerous living situations.
“We recognize the unprecedented nature of this request, but this public health crisis requires
unprecedented action,” they wrote.
The mayor’s office, however, recently launched the #ATLSTRONG FUND, a donation campaign that, per a city news release, would provide:
- Food security for Atlanta’s children and seniors;
- Support for individuals experiencing homelessness;
- Small business assistance;
- Emergency assistance for Atlantans suffering financial hardship due to the pandemic, such as loss of income, rent or utility assistance, etc.
In related news, on April 20, the Atlanta City Council is expected to vote on a proposal to boost the city’s affordable housing bond program to the tune of $200 million.
The measure would allocate money for purchasing and assembling property for affordable housing development, and toward loans that would support multifamily and single-family development and preservation.
(Header photo, via WABE: Atlanta City Hall)