Amid a barrage of criticism from housing experts and constituents, Mayor Andre Dickens on Thursday announced he’d tweak his proposed 2023 municipal budget to include $7 million for the affordable housing trust fund the Atlanta City Council created in December.
The news followed Wednesday’s revelation that the $734.2 million general fund for the City of Atlanta budget that Dickens submitted to the city council last week did not allocate any funding for the recurring housing trust. The council’s ordinance called for the city to allocate 1% of the general fund, or $7.3 million, to the trust in its first year to fund housing initiatives, and eventually increase that amount to 2%.
After housing affordability advocates, including ThreadATL, knocked the glaring lack of support for the new fund as a “major disappointment,” Dickens said during a press call Thursday that he’d heard their concerns and “successfully identified $7 million in additional funding” to prop up the trust fund.
“We heard loud and clear the importance of devoting funding in our new budget to this cause,” he said. “You don’t have to twist my arm to do more with affordable housing.”
Dickens said he’ll introduce an amendment to the current budget draft on Monday to direct the $7 million to the housing trust fund. It will receive 1% of the general fund in its first year, according to the city council legislation, with increases each year until fiscal year 2025, when it’s slated to start receiving 2% annually.
Dickens also caught flak this week for celebrating a $58.7 million investment in housing development, eviction prevention, and homeless services, since none of that commitment incorporated new city funding. Instead, it came from $37.8 million in federal pandemic relief money and $20.9 million that developer CIM Group donated to a separate housing trust fund as part of the controversial Gulch redevelopment deal.
The mayor’s office had previously justified the absence of housing trust capital in the fiscal year 2023 Atlanta budget by citing extenuating economic circumstances, such as inflation, according to WABE.
“This reversal is encouraging,” Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck tweeted Thursday, after criticizing the mayor Wednesday for touting the use of “previously committed federal funds” to support affordable housing programs.