By Sean Keenan
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms appears to be about 18 percent of the way toward accomplishing her campaign goal of producing and preserving 20,000 affordable housing units by 2026.
That means, since 2018, when Bottoms took office, a bit over 3,500 affordable units have been produced or protected.
That’s according to the city’s new Atlanta Housing Affordability Tracker, an online dashboard that provides statistics and maps related to the mayor’s goal of investing $1 billion in affordable housing.
The tracker, which indicates more than $250 million has been allocated toward this goal, shows users the location of each unit created or preserved, as well as exactly how affordable each is relative to the area median income (AMI).
The vast majority of the new and preserved units — 2,409, to be exact — are priced at less than 60 percent of the AMI; 281 units were valued at less than 50 percent of the AMI; and 77 units are affordable to households making less than 30 percent of the AMI, per the tracker. The other 739 units were more expensive.
HouseATL member Sarah Kirsch has told SaportaReport in the past that the city’s most critical need is for units priced below 50 percent of the area median income, so the 358 units for that price point should come as a welcome addition to the city’s housing stock. Still, experts say more work can be done to build and renovate even cheaper housing.
The news of the launch of the affordable housing tracker also comes just a few weeks on the heels of a related program created by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).
In December, the ARC crafted an online tool that helps teach metro Atlanta communities how to address housing-related issues. Local officials can use it to find suggestions on how to boost housing affordability in their areas.
Although the city’s new portal is decidedly a step in the right direction, Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck said it’s insufficient and misleading.
“Contrary to the large [monetary] figure that is prominent on the new ‘Housing Affordability Tracker’ website, the site actually demonstrates that the City has not made any progress towards a pledge of new City funds for affordable housing since the beginning of 2018,” he told SaportaReport in an email.
Most of the funding, Immergluck noted, comes from federal sources. “Forty-nine percent alone comes from tax-exempt bond dollars – loans from private bond investors that need to be repaid and so constitute quite limited subsidy.”
Additionally, he said, “There is no evidence presented on the site that funding from even these federal sources garnered by the City has increased since the prior administration.”
Immergluck also lamented that the site makes clear that no new sources of local funding for affordable housing have been created by the Bottoms administration. Mayor Bottoms’ office did not provide responses to SaportaReport’s request for comment on Immergluck’s concerns, but this story will be updated if we hear back.