By David Pendered

Atlanta’s current proposal to promote affordable housing could begin with a review of vacant land that could be developed with dwellings, rather than starting with the premise of allowing a second abode to be built on the lot of an existing house.

The conversion of space above a carriage house into a suitable residence is one way to create additional dwelling units in Atlanta. Credit: Atlanta

Atlanta’s proposal, unveiled Dec. 3, 2020 notes that the city could add 11,500 affordable units if they were built on the site of an existing house. Construction financing could be unlocked by enabling the second unit to be sold separately from the first residence, according to the document, Atlanta City Design Housing.

The idea of starting the process with a review of vacant lots emerged Monday from the Buckhead Council of Neighborhood’s review of property tax information from Fulton County.

The list of vacant lots is intended as another point to be considered as the city prepares to develop affordable housing with proceeds of a $100 million Housing Opportunity Bond. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order calling for the bond, and the Atlanta City Council approved the order at its Jan. 4 meeting.

BCN’s suggestion comports with the city’s related plan to expedite the development of affordable housing on vacant, publicly owned land, according to Mary Norwood, chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods.

Atlanta proposes to allow a second dwelling unit to be built on the same lot of an existing house to increase the number of affordable units in the city. Credit: Atlanta

The Atlanta City Council is considering a proposal  to expedite development of affordable, workforce and supportive housing on vacant, publicly owned land. The plan is to be crafted by Atlanta’s City Planning; Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm; Atlanta BeltLine; Atlanta Housing; and the Atlanta-Fulton County Land Bank.

BCN’s data set shows a total of 3,965 acres of tax-exempt property is owned by entities including Invest Atlanta; the city’s Housing Authority; the City of Atlanta; Fulton County; the joint city/county recreation authority; Westside Affordable Housing and Westside Revitalization Acquisitions, LLC.

All these lots may not be suitable for residential development, but their potential should be evaluated, Norwood said. The identification through tax records of vacant land in the city does present a starting point for the discussion of locations for affordable housing in Atlanta.

Norwood said Monday:

  • “The Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods received information on vacant properties and is very interested in being as helpful as we can with the goals of bringing prospersity and growth to everyone in the city, and using vacant land to knit neighborhoods back together and to bring density to commercial corridors that have not had it.
  • “Every single person in the city deserves to have the prosperity and amenities that come with density.”

The city’s proposal, contained in Atlanta City Design Housing, observes the zoning code could be amended to “allow an additional dwelling unit in all of the existing single-family areas” in the city. The document observes:

  • “This single zoning amendment would unlock 60% of Atlanta’s land to contribute to the city’s growth without substantially changing the character and feel of the neighborhood. By allowing a 2nd unit on properties throughout the city, the zoning code would align with the historic two-family development pattern found in much of the city.
  • “It could be designed to allow for the development of a variety of additional and subtle housing options, ranging from basement apartments to recessed 2nd units, most of which tend to be much cheaper to live in than a single-family home.”

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...

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