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Atlanta told HUD in May of its plans for more affordable housing

By David Pendered

Atlanta notified the federal government in May that it is pursuing policies to remove barriers to affordable housing, according to a report required by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

affordable housing, quadruplex

Atlanta provided this example, in a 2018 presentation, of a quadruplex (left) next to a house on McClendon Avenue, in Candler Park. Credit: Atlanta

Approaches to implement the policies include the city’s pending proposals to allow more residences to be built in residential neighborhoods. This part of the plan has generated measurable opposition, prompting Atlanta’s policy makers to step back.

In a section of the report to HUD that asks about, “Actions taken to remove or ameliorate the negative effects of public policies that serve as barriers to affordable housing such as land use controls, tax policies affecting land, zoning ordinances…,” Atlanta responded that it began making such changes in 2018:

  • “The updates consist of a range of zoning ‘fixes’ that include solutions to increasing housing diversity, reducing parking requirements, and allowing greater density to increase the overall supply of housing….”

Incidentally, these changes are in keeping with a $5 billion grant program the Biden administration announced June 1. Grants, if funded, would be available to governments that make the types of changes in housing development policies Atlanta contemplates.

Atlanta’s plans for increasing residential density include the addition of smaller apartment structures, such as these in Inman Park. Credit: Atlanta

The purpose of the report required by HUD is for Atlanta to list the city’s use of federal grant fund for affordable housing, homeless prevention, housing for people with AIDS, and related efforts to help lower-income individuals and neighborhoods – the Consolidated Annual Performance and Evaluation Report.

In the section on “actions taken to remove .. barriers to affordable housing,” the city highlighted one change regarding residential density, which it described as a “notable component” of the 2018 zoning update.

Atlanta revised a regulation regarding the number of houses allowed in a zoning category that allowed dwellings for one and two families, and for multifamily developments such as apartments. Although houses were allowed, the minimum lot size restricted the number of houses that could be built. The city reduced the minimum lot size to allow lots of 1,000 square feet, with a minimum 20-foot width and zero lot line. An acre covers 43,560 square feet.

Atlanta’s proposal on accessory dwelling units highlights unobtrusive dwellings such as basement apartments. Credit: Atlanta

Now, the city is in the process of applying these policies on density to the revision of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan for the entire city. Adoption is set for October, by the Atlanta City Council, and the CDP must be delivered to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.

Debate over the proposals for more units in existing neighborhoods of houses has roiled since January. Complaints over proposals for increased density residential neighborhoods resulted in the city announcing July 27 that it was backing off some density proposals.

Three examples of density proposals that were removed from the revised draft were a plan to allow homeowners to sell a portion of their lot for construction of another residence; the elimination minimum lot sizes; and the elimination of a required parking space for each house.

However, these proposals have not been completely eliminated from potential incorporation into the plan. Atlanta planners noted, in an appendix to the main report, that they will continue to campaign for such measures in the time remaining before a final CDP is adopted in October, and after its adoption – as the CDP is implemented into the rewrite of zoning codes.

The city’s efforts to promote residential density comport with President Biden’s policies to promote affordable housing.

Biden’s most recently announced plan, on the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, was the $5 billion Unlocking Possibilities Program, as part of the American Jobs Plan. The competitive grant program would award funding to governments that take steps to promote affordable housing, such as relaxing zoning laws, reducing parking requirements and ending minimum lot sizes.

In a June 1 statement, Biden announced:

  • “Today, on the centennial of the Tulsa Race Massacre, the Biden-Harris Administration is announcing new steps to help narrow the racial wealth gap and reinvest in communities that have been left behind by failed policies.”

The statement announced, without elaboration:

  • “$5 billion for the Unlocking Possibilities Program, an innovative new grant program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take steps to reduce needless barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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  1. Donna Butler August 2, 2021 7:27 am

    I only wish there was enough housing for all us low income ppl.Ive been trying to find a low income home for a very long time and nothing pans out.Its horrible to be my age worked all my life and try to live on less than $1000 per month social security.My northeast Ga county has 50 low income apartments ,that’s a shame and the ppl in those apartments never move so there’s a 7yr waitlist.I only pray some affordable housing would come my way. This is good news for Atlanta !Report

  2. Dana Blankenhorn August 3, 2021 10:36 am

    This proposal will dramatically accelerate Atlanta’s loss of green space, most of which is in owner-occupied home lots. We’re going to become both a slum and a heat sink. Good for politicians, bad for the economy.

    It doesn’t have to be that way. We can increase density and maintain livability. Multi-use zoning, with commercial at the base and enough space for home office above, can be integrated into residential neighborhoods. Creating a land bank for the purchase of lots as park land also allows for more density.

    But what we’re doing now is going to be a disaster. It’s only good for the Atlanta machine and Republicans who want to run on racism, scaring people about the dangerous city.Report


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