By Sean Keenan
At long last, a $100 million housing opportunity bond proposal, which experts believe could actually put a sizable dent in Atlanta’s housing affordability crisis, is headed toward approval by the city council.
After various bond packages languished in the council’s Community Development and Human Services (CD/HS) and Finance and Executive committees for weeks, city leaders gave a massive program crafted by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ administration the CD/HS thumbs up on Tuesday and the FEC go-ahead on Wednesday.
Now, the long-anticipated proposal is poised to clear a full-council vote on Jan. 4 — after the council’s winter recess — and head to Bottoms’ desk.
Even Dan Immergluck, a Georgia State University urban studies professor and frequent critic of the city’s housing initiatives, agreed this means Atlanta is moving in the right direction on the housing affordability front.
“After unfulfilled campaign pledges, vague housing ‘plans’ and a misleading ‘housing tracker,’ Atlanta is on the verge of a meaningful step toward addressing the shortage of affordable housing on one of the fastest gentrifying cities in the nation,” he tweeted.
But what does all this legislative speak mean in real-world terms?
This time next month, assuming Bottoms inks a signature on the package, $100 million in long-term bonds would be authorized and pre-validated for use on producing and preserving affordable housing across Atlanta.
The biggest chunk of that funding — $33 million, to be exact — would go toward loans for the development of multifamily housing. Think apartments, some of which would serve as permanent supportive housing.
The next biggest slice of the pie, at $30.25 million, would support single-family loans: $22 million of that would be used to rehabilitate owner-occupied homes, $4.25 million would help people put down payments on houses, and $4 million would be used to give developers loans to build new homes.
Councilmembers also allocated $15 million to help the city buy and assemble parcels of property for future affordable housing development.
But one of the most substantial shifts in the bond proposal — its inflation to $200 million and subsequent shrinkage back to $100 million notwithstanding — is the boost in nonprofit set-aside funding.
Previously worth just 10 percent of the $100 million proposal, the latest bond package now aims to provide 15 percent — $15 million — for nonprofit developers to develop both multifamily and single-family units.
The rest of the package is expected to be used for program administration and to pay the cost of issuing the bonds.
But that’s not all. The CD/HS and FEC committees’ green light this week also paves the way for the issuance of $50 million in “draw-down revenue bonds” for affordable housing. (Those are bonds delivered to the bond purchaser intermittently as funds are needed.)
All said, “this allows us to start making investments immediately while paying a very low debt service amount now,” Councilman Matt Westmoreland, who had spearheaded earlier iterations of housing bond legislation, told SaportaReport this week. “And then we’ll go to the bond market in the next 24 to 36 months.”
“I am incredibly excited by the $100 million commitment, in new dollars, toward our housing affordability needs,” Westmoreland continued. “It was already such a pressing issue, even before this pandemic hit residents in underserved communities the hardest. We must do more, and I’m proud that we are.”
This story was updated on December 21, 2020 at 12:30 p.m. to clarify the origin of the recently passed legislation.
(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: Atlanta City Hall)