A controversial piece of Atlanta City Council legislation won’t use money earmarked for affordable housing development to donate $500,000 to a local food nonprofit, Wholesome Wave Georgia, city officials told Atlanta Civic Circle on Wednesday.
Instead, the city will allocate the $500,000 to Wholesome Wave from a set-aside in the Gulch redevelopment deal approved last year, which created a $28 million affordable housing trust—including $10 million for “anti-displacement” efforts.
Confusion about the legislation—which simply reads that it will be funded by an “Affordable Housing Trust” account—drew the ire of housing activist groups, such as Housing Justice League, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity, and the Center for Community Progress, and caused the council’s Community Development and Human Services to backburner it on Aug. 23.
Critics thought the funding would come from the city’s new Beloved Community trust, which took effect July 1 to fund affordable housing development and preservation.
Though access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food is not directly mentioned in the Gulch agreement, the city finance department reasoned that Wholesome Wave’s mission of fighting food insecurity is key to preventing displacement, according to a statement provided by Mayor Andre Dickens’ spokesperson, Michael Smith.
“Providing food access in communities that are food deserts and/or don’t have access to healthy food options helps residents remain in their homes and combats displacement,” the statement said. “Therefore, the department recommended this as the appropriate source of funding for the legislation.”
Atlanta City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, the legislation’s lead sponsor, said in a text that they, as well as Councilmember Jason Dozier and finance department officials, plan to meet and clear the air with the advocacy groups who complained in a letter to lawmakers about what they considered a potential misuse of affordable housing money.
Bakhtiari said they’ll try to “correct the misinformation” about the legislation and its funding source.