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Sean Keenan Columns

Atlanta lawmaker: $100 million affordable housing bond should help city buy land for residences

Sean Keenan
Atlanta City Hall

By Sean Keenan

When Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms called for the city to issue $100 million in bonds to propel affordable housing initiatives last month, local leaders and housing professionals began brainstorming how the money might best be spent.

One Atlanta City Councilman thinks a significant chunk of the investment should go toward purchasing land that could later be developed into residences.

Councilman Matt Westmoreland told SaportaReport on Thursday that acquiring property should be a top priority for city officials as they work to address the mounting housing affordability crisis.

“If you control the land, you get to control what happens on it,” the councilman said. “[That way], it can be affordable forever.”

Affordable housing advocates with HouseATL have called for an additional $150 million in bond funding to back affordable housing creation and preservation.

They also assert, however, that more funding sources must be identified.

When the City of Atlanta announced in early February that it had allocated more than $250 million of the mayor’s $1 billion campaign goal toward affordable housing, for instance, Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck told SaportaReport that the metrics touted were misleading.

“Contrary to the large [monetary] figure that is prominent on the new ‘Housing Affordability Tracker’ website, the site actually demonstrates that the City has not made any progress towards a pledge of new City funds for affordable housing since the beginning of 2018,” he said.

The mayor’s push for a bond issuance also came with a request that city officials identify new local funding sources for affordable housing programs.

Those programs might include financial assistance for rent or down payments on homes or funding to help with renovations.

Westmoreland, among others, also said he wants the city to better partner with AH to fast-track efforts to utilize the hundreds of acres of undeveloped land it owns.

AH officials have told SaportaReport that there is nearly $50 million in new construction in the agency’s FY2020 pipeline.

This story has been edited for clarity. 

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2 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Russell Wagner March 11, 2020 9:16 am

    We(our team at Taxfence) have been tracking very significant jumps in the Housing Assessments for the past 3 years to the point of unsustainable jumps in key areas, while other housing areas are not seeing this. Is it good to use City Bonds, to purchase land in the city, that could otherwise be taxed appropriately to balance out these assessments? Or, are the heavily assessed homeowners going to have to bear the overpayment of such a purchase?

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      Atlanta Resident March 20, 2020 1:56 pm

      Russell, I think the Federal Gov will back up the muni markets. I imagine the city will buy land to build hi-density housing not single
      family detached homes hoping Covid-19 virus will be the last virus. Currently NYC & LA have 1/2 of all the virus cases due to their
      housing density. Guess Atlanta wants to compete with its stack & pack mentality, out of control tree cutting & lust for a never ending
      growth rate. The road to hell can be paved with good intentions.

      As for out of control property taxes on homeowners escalating in areas of hot markets I see no relief. Have CM Howard Shook & Commissioner Lee Morris made any progress in collecting a fair share from large developments? Not that I’ve heard. Are local Govs
      Stopped giving generous tax abatements to big developers? Not that I’ve heard. Has Commissioner Morris’ proposal to increase
      exemptions as valuations rise gain any traction under the Gold Dome? Not that I’ve heard.

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