Facing backlash from housing advocates, Atlanta City Council members on Tuesday tapped the brakes on legislation to spend $500,000 from the city’s new affordable housing trust fund on alleviating food insecurity.
During the council’s Community Development and Human Services Committee meeting, councilmembers elected to hold a proposal to grant $500,000 to a food nonprofit, Wholesome Wave Georgia, while they iron out how to fund the legislation before it goes to a full-council vote.
The city of Atlanta’s finance department linked the donation legislation for Wholesome Wave Georgia to the affordable housing trust, committee chair Jason Dozier said during the meeting, adding that he’d spoken with Atlanta’s chief financial officer, Mohamed Balla, about the issue.
According to Dozier, Balla determined that helping people access fresh, nutritious food is a key part of preventing displacement—one of the goals of the housing trust fund, which launched July 1.
But, Dozier added, putting the food nonprofit’s grant proposal on hold will allow the council to clarify what type of anti-displacement grants the new housing trust fund can be used for. “After conversations that many of us have had in the housing community and conversations we’ve had amongst ourselves, we felt there was a need for clarification on this,” he said.
“The hope is that this gives us a little more time to make this more clear and be more specific about not only where the money is coming from, but about its intended uses—and maybe even an opportunity to more articulately spell out what anti-displacement funds are used for,” the councilmember said.
The committee’s decision followed pushback from the Housing Justice League, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, the Center for Community Progress, and other organizations focused on housing affordability.
In a letter to councilmembers Monday, those groups acknowledged that fighting food insecurity is worthwhile, but added: “We believe using the housing trust fund as the source of this much-needed contribution is wholly inappropriate.”
“We collectively wanted to express our belief in the importance of the city safeguarding the affordable housing trust fund and only using it for the purposes for which it was originally intended: the production and preservation of affordable housing within the city of Atlanta,” the letter said.
City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, the grant legislation’s lead sponsor, told Atlanta Civic Circle last week that they were asking the finance department if the city could make the $500,000 grant to Wholesome Wave Georgia from a different funding source.
Another sponsor, Councilmember Matt Westmoreland reiterated that in a tweet Monday, saying, “We will fix the funding stream.”