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Affordable housing advocates appeal to city for more rent payment assistance during pandemic

Sean Keenan

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)

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    C Smith April 7, 2020 1:00 pm

    Atlanta’s council and mayor don’t really address the root problem of affordable housing,,, which is low inventory, the number of doors available at a rent amount. The ADU ordinance is a step in the right direction to create more inventory but Atlanta and every locale is loath to do what’s needed. Open the spigots for large house conversion into duplex / Tri, higher density infill of small multi-door and many other useful ideas where private-public working together to increase inventory.

    Instead municipal leaders, Atlanta included talk negatively about the Bad Investors out there buying and fixing up neighborhoods. Vs praising investors and facilitating what we do. I’m a Ma and Pa small time landlord. I’d like to buy derelict vacant houses, fix them up and rent them to the many eager families moving to the Atlanta area. I hear of neighborhood assoc, egged on by the Mayor and folks on the Council saying bad things about investors buying wrecks of houses. We are investing our own cash, taking huge financial risks, investing the USA way via Entrepreneurialism to both improve a neighborhood and to make a (modest) profit renting a nice house out.

    There’s Gov reps and reporters who don’t know how business works and why we need to be (modestly) profitable as us small fry landlords buy one house at a time and add to the inventory. LOL restrictive zoning, nutty permitting and inspection process, rent controls, free rent, can’t evict a non-paying tenant etc all remove the reasons why we took financial risk,,, to build a future nest egg and to have income to live off in the mean time. We are small fry living off our rental income! BTW during covid19 we are doing rent deferrals for all our great but struggling tenants! Dropping rent to amounts they can pay, its the right thing todo during covid!

    We need help re zoning, permitting and also in the image building from the top categories. Investors and landlords are an essential part of the whole real estate, affordable housing, available doors for rent equation in all geographic areas and including Atlanta area. Please some better PR for landlords please and lets work on zoning and permitting. 🙂

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