Atlanta’s lack of affordable housing prompts call to revive Housing Commission
By David Pendered
In 1993, the need for affordable housing was so great that the Atlanta City Council created a Housing Commission to recommend solutions; the commission evaporated. Now, a pending proposal would revive the commission and charge it with meeting the challenges of this era.
Atlanta Councilmember Natalyn Archibong has proposed to reconstitute the commission. The proposal is slated for debate at the meeting Tuesday of a committee chaired by Archibong, the Community Development Committee.
If the committee votes to approve the measure, it could be on the agenda of the city council’s meeting on Oct. 2.
The purpose of the commission is to assist the city in developing, “an innovative citywide policy to further develop and sustain various affordable housing options,” according to the legislation.
There is little to indicate the Housing Commission was much more than lip service paid to the issue. It was passed in a heated campaign year that ended with Bill Campbell defeating former Fulton County Chairman Michael Lomax in the run-off in the mayoral election.
Archibong’s legislation observes: “[T]here is no evidence in the ordinance establishing the Housing Committee that it was ever codified in the charter of the City of Atlanta.” Furthermore, the commission, “is no longer seated and has not met to report to the city council in several years.”
A key revision in policy that Archibong proposes is to reduce the complexity of selecting members for the commission.
Archibong’s legislation calls for a nine-member commission to be appointed by the mayor, council president, and city council. The city council is to confirm all appointments; the existing ordinance did not require council confirmation of commission members.
Here’s the proposed formula for naming members of the commission:
- Three members appointed by the mayor;
- Three members appointed by the council president;
- Three members appointed by the city council as follows:
- One appointment made by members from council districts 1 through 4, and at-large post 1;
- One appointment made by members from council districts 5 through 8, and at-large post 2;
- One appointment made by members from council districts 9 through 12, and at-large post 3.
In choosing nominees, the folks making appointments are to ensure the following organizations and areas of professional practice are represented:
- One member from the city’s housing program;
- One member who’s an active advocate for low-income persons in connection with affordable housing;
- One member of the Urban Residential Finance Authority, which is part of Invest Atlanta, the city’s redevelopment arm;
- One member from the Atlanta Continuum of Care, the city’s provider of services to the homeless;
- One member from the for-profit development community;
- One member from the not-for-profit development community;
- One member to represent mortgage lenders;
- One member from the city’s Office of Housing and Community Development;
- One member from the Atlanta Housing Authority.
This formula replaces the original method, which called for designated organizations that were active in the housing arena to appoint a total of five individuals who were members of the organizations. The other 10 members were to be appointed by the mayor, council president, and city council.
One organization that had a representative was the Atlanta Task Force for the Homeless. In subsequent years, the city would take steps to close a shelter the task force ran at the intersection of Peachtree and Pine streets, in Downtown Atlanta.
The original method also was very specific in designating what sorts of expertise were to be chosen by the council members. For example:
- “[O]ne for-profit multi-family developer shall be appointed by Councilmembers from district 5 and 6 and the at large Councilperson;
- “[O]ne non-profit single family developer shall be appointed by Councilmember’s from districts 1 and 2 and the at-large Councilperson.”