Atlanta BeltLine housing developers may be required to build affordable homes
By David Pendered
Atlanta’s city code states outright that the Atlanta BeltLine will, “increase the affordable housing inventory.” Three city councilmembers have proposed legislation that intends to put teeth into this provision in city code, which the BeltLine has not been on track to fulfill since the council adopted the provision in 2007.
Councilmembers Andre Dickens, Kwanza Hall and Cleta Winslow filed three personal papers at Monday’s meeting of the Atlanta City Council.
The papers would set minimum requirements for the proportion of new homes that have to be affordable. Affordable is defined as 80 percent or less of the area median income in metro Atlanta. The AMI, as of May, was $38,200 a year for one person, city officials said at that time.
The papers also establish programs for developers to pay fees if they choose not to provide affordable housing. Finally, they create a housing trust fund to accept the fees and distribute them for the purpose of building affordable homes in the BeltLine Overlay District.
Given the heft of the legislation, it’s unlikely the council will adopt anything this year. The council has only three meetings left before it breaks for the winter holiday recess.
If the legislation moves on a path similar to another sweeping proposal, Mayor Kasim Reed’s successful water and energy sustainability effort, the council and administration could be looking at months of negotiations with the development community. Reed’s administration has been consulted on the proposals.
It could take that long to craft affordable housing regulations that apply to the city’s hottest development market. Prices so far have been in the luxury range. The Amli Parkside website lists the cheapest rent for a two-bedroom unit at Old Fourth Ward Park as starting at $1,830 a month. A new townhome in Inman Park is priced at $764,000, according to its listing.
The papers seek to amend the BeltLine Overlay District Regulations, as stated in Atlanta’s Code of Ordinances.
The lofty goals of the BeltLine, back in its infancy, described it as an effort:
- “[T]o create a better connected, more diversified city where people across the spectrum of age, income, ethnicity, and culture can live, work, shop, meet, and play.”
- And to: “[I]ncrease the affordable housing inventory.”
The first paper establishes itself as the overarching regulation. It seeks to create a new city ordinance that require affordable housing be built in the BeltLine Overlay District. It provides that:
- All housing developments of five or more units must provide a number of homes affordable to households earning 80 percent or less than the area median income for metro Atlanta;
- At least 15 percent of homes built must be priced as affordable and remain so for 30 years;
- At least 10 percent of the homes must be priced for those whose income does not exceed 60 percent of AMI;
- Atlanta will not issue a certificate of occupancy until a Land Use Restrictive Agreement is recorded in the real estate records of the county where the units are built;
- Developers who choose not to comply can pay an in lieu fee to Atlanta’s proposed housing trust fund in the amount of $172,500. The rate is comprised of a $150,000 fee and a 15 percent administrative fee;
- Incentives include a 15 percent density bonus, which increases the amount of floor area that will be allowed in the new development, plus a property tax incentive.
The second paper establishes the property tax incentives cited in the first paper. The paper provides that:
- The amount of the incentive has not been determined. The space is blank in the legislation;
- The maximum incentive period is 30 years.
The third paper establishes a housing trust fund to accept and disburse the in-lieu fees and administrative fees. The paper provides two uses for proceeds of the housing trust fund:
- The money may be used, “for the production or preservation of affordable housing with the BeltLine Overlay District, through acquisition, new construction, reconstruction, and/or rehabilitation.”
- In addition, “All assisted units will be required to have a minimum affordability period of 30 years.”