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On Wednesday, the City of Atlanta unveiled a report outlining its progress on officials’ efforts to produce or preserve 20,000 affordable housing units by 2026. Things are going well, the report said. Still, the city could do better.

“In just the second year of our six-year action plan, we have launched more than 65 percent of the actions in the plan,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said of the One Atlanta: Housing Affordability Action Plan, per the report.

“Since January of 2018, the city and its agencies have committed and invested over $497 million in the creation and preservation of 6,007 affordable homes,” Bottoms’ letter continued. 

She also touted the creation of the $22 million emergency housing assistance fund, as well as an upcoming “anti-displacement tax fund” that’s expected to debut later this year and the adoption of the city’s new housing opportunity bond program. 

The report identifies steps in the right direction, although it also highlights the abundant room for improvement and further action, according to Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck. 

“I am happy that they have at least passed the $50 million bond program, with some intention to go another $50 million after that,” Immergluck told Atlanta Civic Circle in an email. “But this report remains primarily window-dressing and often quite unclear as to what the numbers really mean, primarily because it does not distinguish federal and state funds from local city of Atlanta dollars.” 

The nearly half-billion-dollar investment — which represents almost half of Bottoms’ $1 billion goal — is referred to in the report as “city-controlled funds” committed to affordable housing initiatives, which Immergluck said could be misleading. 

Because of the wording, he said, the city can take credit for what are largely federal dollars, “like Low-Income Housing Tax Credits and housing authority dollars, and the rental assistance money. In fact, many of these dollars are not really controlled by the city, at least not fundamentally, but by the federal government.”

The professor also lamented that the report “groups together loans to projects versus grants and other forms of subsidy, which are more meaningful.” He added, “It doesn’t clearly show whether the loans are market-rate or below-market-rate, the latter being what is more critical to develop affordable housing at lower-income levels.”

Immergluck also wondered how much of the Invest Atlanta financing mentioned in the report would be put toward luxury developments “with small set-asides at 80 percent” of the area median income (AMI), “versus what is going to truly affordable properties” that traditionally benefit from federal subsidy, too.

Invest Atlanta officials did not immediately respond to inquiries about his criticism there.

Immergluck conceded that the city is “deploying more federal dollars into affordable housing projects, which is a good thing.”

City officials did not address ACC’s questions about the professor’s cricisim of the report, although a spokesperson for the mayor’s office offered the following statement:

This report is about action. Mayor Bottoms’ action:

  • Directed the city to access $100 million in Housing Opportunity Bonds;
  • The Department of City Planning’s examination of our zoning code;
  • Land Bank’s new partnership with the Atlanta Land Trust to create permanently affordable housing; and
  • The creation of a citywide anti-displacement tax fund and the development of new public-private partnerships.

All are in line with our vision of creating One Atlanta, a city that is affordable for all Atlanta residents.

Click here to read the city’s full report, and let us know what you think in the comments. This story will be updated as officials respond to ACC’s questions. 

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