In a recent bid to boost housing affordability and brace for Atlanta’s expected population explosion, City Councilman Amir Farokhi proposed a suite of ordinances that would help densify the residential areas near transit stations and make them less car-dependent.

The first of the three proposals aims to rezone properties within a half-mile walk from mass transit stops from low-density designations — including single-family residential zoning — to what’s called “Multifamily Residential Multi-Unit” (MR-MU), “to promote a variety of housing options and increase affordability,” according to the latest legislative draft.

In short, neighborhoods that might have historically resembled suburban-style subdivisions — many with single-family homes and yards — would have to become more welcoming to the likes of apartment developments. 

Farokhi’s second pitch would reinforce the first’s mission by amending the land use element of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan, a 2016 framework that guides how Atlanta is built out, to designate specific properties for higher-density development.

The third ordinance proposal, if approved with the other two, would capitalize on these efforts by allowing for accessory dwelling units (ADUs) — including basement or garage apartments — and removing parking space requirements for all residential developments. 

Neighbors for More Neighbors of Metro Atlanta, an advocacy group lobbying for Farokhi’s legislation, said in an open letter to city councilmembers that these changes are crucial for Atlanta to become “the equitable, inclusive and accessible city that we know it can and should be.” 

Farokhi, in an interview with Atlanta Civic Circle, said, “We have an obligation to think about the future of the city and how we manage our growth, and that’s going to require a wide range of housing options.”

“This legislation is one small piece of that,” he said. “Simply put, housing demand exceeds housing supply, and we need to thoughtfully find a way to create more options in a way that’s subtle and that protects the character of our neighborhoods.”

Farokhi, though, knows these proposals won’t be adopted without a hitch. He and other advocates for progressive city design will have to hurdle misconceptions about what density means for the fabric of Atlanta’s neighborhoods, as well as a longtime obsession with automobiles that’s for decades dictated how the city has been laid out.

In related news, MARTA officials last month announced the transit agency had teamed up with investment banking giant Goldman Sachs to launch a $100 million initiative aimed at producing affordable housing near train stops. 

It’s yet unclear where those units might be built, although Farokhi’s slate of proposals could amplify the impact of the transit-oriented development program should it pass the Atlanta City Council in the coming weeks or months.

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