The City of Atlanta has long been differentiated from other cities based on its unique combination of a relatively low cost of living and high quality of life. Atlanta’s affordability has long served as a key competitive advantage and draw for both business and job seekers. Over time, however, several factors have impacted Atlanta’s housing affordability and threatened its economic competitive advantage.
Many low and moderate-income households are now spending high percentages of their earnings on rent or mortgage payments. In Atlanta, 80 percent of households spend 45 percent or more of their annual income on housing and transportation expenses and approximately 1,500 affordable homes are lost each year to market rate conversions or deteriorated living conditions. As home prices and rents continue to increase, Atlanta’s cost of living has increasingly become a barrier to economic mobility for many people who presently make or would like to make Atlanta home.
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms recognized that the civic leadership of Atlanta lacked adequate funding and a comprehensive policy agenda to address the city’s housing affordability crisis. Upon taking office, Mayor Bottoms has worked to achieve that vision by producing and preserving affordable housing units as a fundamental underpinning of the City’s economic development infrastructure.
With the galvanized support of both the public and private sectors, HouseATL, a task force convened and funded by the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation in partnership with ULI Atlanta and others, developed a set of 23 tactical recommendations to pursue on affordable housing for those Atlanta households earning 0 – 120% of metro Atlanta’s area median income. To help finance the $1 Billion Affordable Housing Initiative, HouseATL committed to raising $500 million from local private and philanthropic resources with the remaining $500 million to be sourced from local public resources.
HouseATL’s strategy for leveraging private and philanthropic resources called for raising $20 – $50 million annually, over eight years, from local social impact funds and other charitable organizations. An additional $50 – $75 million in private capital would be raised from individual and corporate investors through the use of New Markets Tax Credits which allow investors to receive a federal tax credit for making equity investments in local community development entities. Private sector investments in the production of affordable homes would also be facilitated through regulatory reforms to Atlanta’s zoning and building codes that would allow for greater innovation, cost savings, and increased production within the housing sector.
To ensure the successful implementation of the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Initiative and in keeping with another of HouseATL’s recommendations, Mayor Bottoms established the office of the Chief Housing Officer – Atlanta’s first cabinet-level housing position.