The Atlanta City Council’s Community Development and Human Services (CD/HS) Committee adjourned its Tuesday meeting without addressing a controversial proposal to donate $500,000 from the city’s new affordable housing trust fund to a nonprofit that fights food insecurity.
That was the second time the panel of council members opted not to move the legislation forward, amid criticism from experts and activists who said the affordable housing trust—a new purse that, since July 1, pulls money from the city’s general fund each year to build and preserve affordable housing units—shouldn’t be used for anything but housing.
The legislation, proposed by City Councilmembers Liliana Bakhtiari, Matt Westmoreland, Jason Dozier, and Jason Winston, first surfaced during the city council’s Aug. 15 meeting, but the CD/HS Committee tabled it on Aug. 23.
“We felt there was a need for clarification on this,” said Dozier, the CD/HS committee chair, at that time, adding that it was the city’s finance department that had elected to allocate $500,000 from the housing trust to Wholesome Wave Georgia, which provides fresh produce to people who rely on SNAP benefits.
Dozier said at the Aug. 23 meeting that Atlanta’s chief financial officer, Mohamed Balla, told him the finance department determined helping people access fresh, nutritious food was a vital component in preventing displacement, a primary goal of the trust fund.
Relatedly, a 2014 report published in the Journal of Applied Research on Children concluded that low-income households with children are more likely to stay housed if they have access to food because of SNAP benefits.
Asked for comment after the Tuesday meeting, Dozier deferred to Bakhtiari, who has not responded to repeated phone and email requests for comment. Nor have officials from the city’s finance department, whom Atlanta Civic Circle has been trying to reach since Aug. 19.
Bakhtiari told Atlanta Civic Circle last month that they’d asked the finance department to find another city funding source for Wholesome Wave Georgia. The status of that effort is unclear.
The delay means the food nonprofit is still waiting for city funding that could further its mission. Its executive director, Will Sellers declined to comment on the politics ensnaring the funding legislation.
But housing advocates say they don’t want the legislation rushed to ratification if it would divert resources from affordability initiatives.
Housing Justice League, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, the Center for Community Progress, and other housing-focused nonprofits and activist groups called the proposal “wholly inappropriate” in a letter to council members last month.
“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.