BeltLine elevates head of housing policy to cabinet level position
By David Pendered
The Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. has elevated the position of housing director to a cabinet level position, underscoring BeltLine President and CEO Brian McGowan’s intention to sharpen the BeltLine’s effort to comply with City Hall’s mandate that the BeltLine develop 5,600 units of affordable housing along the corridor.
Even at the C-suite level, the position faces a tough challenge to generate much interest from the private sector in building homes that are affordable to folks earning the salary of a school teacher.
Developers as far back as 2008 were seeking from ABI anywhere from $80,000 to $90,000 per affordable unit. The BeltLine was offering $40,000 and not many developers took the incentive, the BeltLine’s former housing director, James Alexander, said at a September 2016 meeting of the Regional Housing Forum, an affiliate of the Atlanta Regional Commission.
Vaughn was among the first BeltLine officials to acknowledge publicly that the urban redevelopment program was not meeting its mandate to establish affordable housing, along with the network of trails, mass transit and parks that are central to its mission. Fast-forward to the 2017 mayoral election, and the city’s dearth of affordable housing prompted then candidate, now mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms to issue the following announcement on Oct. 11:
- “Keisha Lance Bottoms announces her plan to increase affordable housing, pledging to raise and commit $1 billion to expand affordability throughout Atlanta and stop the displacement of residents in gentrified communities, through the creation of the Atlanta Affordable Housing Initiative.”
In 2016, Alexander said 570 units of affordable housing had been built in the BeltLine corridor. The number of such units has increased to 822, the BeltLine stated March 16. That’s an increase of 44 percent.
In all, a total of 2,565 affordable units have been created “within walking distance” of the BeltLine in conjunction with Invest Atlanta, the city’s development arm; the Georgia Department of Community Affairs; and the Atlanta Housing Authority, according to the statement.
At the current rate of construction, it will take almost 90 years to develop the 5,600 units of affordable homes that are required by the City Hall legislation that established the BeltLine, according to the latest housing estimate, which Alexander provided in September 2016.
The BeltLine quietly announced the elevation of the housing director to vice president status on March 16. That’s when it announced the hiring of Dwayne Vaughn, a longtime housing executive, to fill the newly created position of vice president of Housing Policy and Development.
The statement did not mention that the previous position had been ranked as a director of the Housing Policy and Development. The statement did observe that the new position will:
- “[W]ork closely with the COO and executive team providing senior level leadership, innovation and focus to achieve ABI’s affordable workforce housing goals and initialives. He will work collaboratively with neighborhoods, city leaders, developers, housing providers and numerous other private and public stakeholders to help ensure that ABI’s housing efforts provide workforce families the opportunity to live and thrive within the Atlanta BeltLine’s impact areas.”
McGowan emphasized the notion of inclusion in the BeltLine’s housing program:
- “Dwayne is an exceptional addition to ABI. He brings creativity and collaboration to the job as ABI continues to support Atlanta’s affordable housing leaders and prioritize Atlanta residents, equity, and inclusion in our housing efforts.”
Vaughn served most recently as executive director of the Mobile (Ala.) Housing Board, and its affiliates. Vaughn stepped down from that position in February 2017, according to a report in al.com.
While heading the MHA, Vaughn advocated for the authority to demolish and replace dilapidated housing structures rather than plow the money into maintaining failing buildings, according to the al.com report. Atlanta’s housing authority implemented this approach in the 1990s.