[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text dp_text_size=”size-4″]Three years ago, the City of Atlanta created a program aimed at peppering the Beltline and its environs, as well as Westside neighborhoods, with affordable housing. The so-called “inclusionary zoning” model mandated that real estate developers building residences on land in those areas set aside some of their new units for affordable housing. Last week, the city revealed how well the program has been going.

As part of the plan, developers are expected to earmark 10 percent of their units if they were to price them as affordable for households making 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) or 15 percent of them for households earning 80 percent of the AMI. Otherwise, they have to pay an “in-lieu fee” to make up for shrugging off the obligation. 

Last week, the city unveiled a report on the progress of the inclusionary zoning program. Since January 2018, when city officials first launched the endeavor, 362 affordable housing units have made their way to some stage of development in the Beltline Overlay District and the Westside Affordable Workforce Housing District. Most of those units are being built for households earning between 70 and 80 percent of the AMI, while the rest are reserved for homes bringing in 60 percent of the AMI or less, per the report. 

Neighborhoods with the most IZ-compliant affordable housing in the development pipeline include Peoplestown (88 units), Cabbagetown/Reynoldstown (67), Chosewood Park/Englewood Manor (54). These are communities where hundreds of households are cost-burdened, meaning they spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing. 

The area with the most daunting amount of rent-burdened households, though, is expecting far fewer affordable homes at the moment. The Old Fourth Ward/Sweet Auburn neighborhood statistical area (NSA) — communities near the bustling and gentrification-inspiring Eastside Beltline Trail — has 2,488 households paying more than a third of their earnings on housing and just 14 IZ-compliant units in the works. 

Only the Adair Park/Pittsburgh and Ormewood Park NSAs are expecting fewer affordable units, with 13 and 6 in the pipeline respectively. Those are places where the Beltline is relatively new or still being developed, meaning the project hasn’t yet had as intense an effect on the nearby real estate market as it’s had on fast-evolving eastside neighborhoods. 

“Another aim of IZ programs is to provide low- and moderate-income residents with access to low-poverty neighborhoods,” the report says. “In the ten NSAs where the IZ developments are in some phase of being built, the average household poverty rate was 24 percent and ranged from about 7 percent in Ormewood Park and Cabbagetown/ Reynoldstown to 39 percent in English Avenue.”

None of the communities where IZ-compliant affordable housing is planned are considered neighborhoods in which poverty is severely concentrated — communities where there’s a greater than 40 percent poverty rate, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. 

“On average the rate of poverty was higher in NSAs where IZ projects are in some stage of development as compared to the City of Atlanta,” the report says. “In fact, seven of the ten NSAs where IZ projects have been located have higher rates of poverty than that of the City.” In other words, there’s nothing in the development pipeline in areas that need a boost in housing affordability the most, but many struggling communities still stand to benefit from the program. 

Granted, the IZ program is still relatively young and sure to produce more affordable residences in coming years. The report also outlines some recommendations that could make the program more robust, including broadening the areas where the program is in effect and exploring “increased density and height bonuses to developers that provide units at 40 percent of the AMI to increase the supply of housing for very low-income residents.”

Give the full report a look here, and chime in with your own thoughts, concerns and suggestions in the comment section below. 

(Header image, via Kelly Jordan: Atlanta City Hall)

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