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City to invest $50 million in bonds to support affordable housing creation, protection

By Sean Keenan

The City of Atlanta intends to invest $50 million worth of bonds to help produce and preserve affordable housing, officials announced in a Tuesday press release. 

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued an executive order that paves the way for the investment, which comes as Atlanta City Council leaders were working on a proposal for an affordable housing bond program that would be worth $100 million. 

It appears the mayor’s office determined the city, whose housing affordability crisis has been exacerbated by the pandemic, couldn’t wait for the massive program to make its way to council approval. 

Of the $50 million endeavor, the 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 order also directs city officials to “take the necessary actions to expand on these funds to ultimately issue $100 million in housing opportunity bonds,” per the release. The mayor’s office has not yet responded to SaportaReport’s inquiry about what those steps might be, and this story will be updated as more information is provided. 

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, introduced earlier this year and stalled due to the impact of the pandemic on the city’s finances,” the release continues. 

To Dan Immergluck, Georgia State University urban studies professor, that sounds like “some portion of the second tranche will be refinancing of the initial tranche, so the net new spending on housing could be as little as $50 million.”

“It sounds as if they will set $50 million as the lower bound on new spending, and something likely well under $100 million as the upper bound,” he added. 

Immergluck said Tuesday’s executive order is decidedly a “step in the right direction,” although it still falls short of previous goals to use $100 million — and, at one point, $200 million — in bond funding to propel affordable housing initiatives. 

(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: Atlanta City Hall, in all its glory)

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