By Sean Keenan
On Monday, more than two years after HouseATL leaders pitched the idea of architecting a bond program to help beef up the city’s affordable housing stock, Atlanta officials green-lit legislation that paves the way for a $50 million investment aimed at furthering the city’s housing goals.
The Atlanta City Council approved a proposal spawned by an executive order from Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms that also clears a path for the issuance of $100 million in so-called “housing opportunity bonds,” which will support the construction and preservation of affordable residences within city limits.
“The executive order directs the issuance of $50 million in bonds for affordable housing, which will be structured to take advantage of the current low-interest rate environment,” a city press release says. “The city will be able to draw down these funds in a manner that minimizes the near-term costs to the city and allows time for Atlanta’s economy to bounce back from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The executive mandate orders Atlanta officials to “take the necessary actions to expand on these [$50 million] funds to ultimately issue $100 million in housing opportunity bonds,” the release says. “The city will deploy the $100 million in new affordable housing funds to repay the initial bonds and continue to implement the housing activities included in the administration’s housing opportunity bond legislation.”
A hefty portion of the new funding vehicle — $33 million of the $100 million program — is slated to provide loans for multifamily developers building and preserving affordable housing; $30.25 million is bound for single-family development loans; and $22 million is set aside for the rehabilitation of owner-occupied houses.
The rest is expected to help folks put down payments to buy homes, help the city buy and assemble pieces of property, and help nonprofits build and renovate affordable properties, not to mention administrative fees.
Atlanta residents need to keep a close eye on how these funds are spent. It could easily turn into a slush fund for the well connected types and their friends.