When critics claimed the city of Atlanta’s proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year shortchanged its affordable housing trust fund by nearly $4 million, Mayor Andre Dickens’ office blamed inflation and pointed to potentially $300 million in additional affordable housing funding from local foundations and a municipal bond issue to assuage concerns.
Atlanta’s $790 million draft budget, released May 1, allocates just $8 million to the new affordable housing trust for its second year of operation. While this represents a 15% increase over the $7 million allocated in FY23, it falls significantly short of the $11.85 million called for by the Atlanta City Council legislation that established the trust in 2021. The establishing legislation directed that the housing trust be funded with 1% of the general fund in its first year, FY23, then 1.5% for FY24, and ultimately 2% for FY25 and onward.
Currently valued by the city at about $26 million—which includes FY 2023’s $7 million infusion and an initial $20.9 million from CIM Group in exchange for tax breaks worth about $1.75 billion over 30 years for its downtown Gulch redevelopment—the affordable housing trust fund pales in comparison to the expected $300 million in housing funding announced May 2.
That would come from a proposed $100 million city bond issue and as much as $200 million from the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta–including $75 million it’s already received from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, $25 million from the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation and another $100 million that it plans to raise.
But the two funding streams are used differently. The $300 million in grant money and bond revenue would be squarely focused on housing construction and rehabilitation; it will fund a new GoATL Affordable Housing Impact Fund that provides low-interest construction loans and a TogetherATL Philanthropic Fund to finance the construction and rehab of long-term affordable housing.
By contrast, the city is viewing the affordable housing trust as more than a funding stream for construction projects. So far, it’s been tapped for a wide variety of initiatives to support lower-income homeowners and renters, along with land purchases and grants to nonprofits for affordable housing construction.
“It’s apples to oranges,” Center for Civic Innovation policy researcher Kyle Kessler told Atlanta Civic Circle in May. “We need to do both of these things, not let one take the place of the other.”
Trust fund expenditures
So far the city has spent $26 million from the housing trust on projects ranging from property tax and downpayment assistance for lower income homeowners to, most recently, hiring more code enforcement inspectors. Here’s how Atlanta has disbursed the money.
In December 2021, the city gave Invest Atlanta, its economic development arm, about $15 million from the housing trust for three things: $10 million for an anti-displacement initiative to cover sharp increases in longtime homeowners’ property taxes, $4.5 million in down-payment assistance to lower-income homebuyers, and $560,000 toward preparing public land for housing development.
The city gave Invest Atlanta another $4.5 million in December 2022 for a grant program earmarked for faith-based organizations to build affordable housing on their own land.
In September the city allocated $2 million from the trust fund to assemble parcels of property around downtown’s 143 Alabama St., which is slated to be redeveloped into affordable housing.
Last year, Atlanta also made individual $500,000 awards from the trust fund to, respectively, the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation for eviction defense legal aid; community development group Grove Park Renewal for a project to build 40 housing units on 10 vacant lots; and Wholesome Wave Georgia to provide fresh produce to people who rely on SNAP benefits.
It also awarded $600,000 in 2022 to the Community Foundation to relocate almost 200 families from Forest Cove Apartments, after the complex, owned by Millennia Housing Management, was condemned.
The Dickens administration on May 25 announced it would allocate an additional $800,000 from the trust for the city’s new Safe and Secure Housing Program. Some of the funding will go to landlords to fix up distressed homes and apartments and some will go to hiring more Atlanta code enforcement inspectors and solicitors to go after other landlords who neglect properties and rack up housing code violations.
The mayor’s office also just announced a $600,000 allocation from the trust to launch the Housing Help Center, a so-called “one-stop shop for Atlanta residents seeking affordable housing resources,” such as help finding rental units priced for low-income tenants.
Other, smaller allocations from the trust went to the Metro Atlanta Land Bank Authority, which sells and donates properties for new construction and rehabilitation; consulting firm Gordian Group; tiny home developer MicroLife Institute; nonprofits Neighbor In Need and HouseProud Atlanta, which help low-income, elderly residents make emergency home repairs; and HOPE Atlanta, a homeless services agency.
With the June 20 deadline for Atlanta City Council to approve the FY24 budget just weeks away, the mayor’s office has given no indication that it will increase the allocation to the housing trust fund from $8 million to $11.85 million, which would represent 1.5% of the city’s general fund, as the establishing legislation called for.
Here is a complete accounting of the trust fund’s usage, compiled by the Center for Civic Innovation:
|Community benefits funds from Gulch transaction||11/01/21||$20,937,500|
|Establish Affordable Housing Trust Fund||12/06/21||—|
|IGA with Invest Atlanta for proceeds from Gulch community benefit funds||12/20/21||-$15,060,000|
|FY2023 contribution to Affordable Housing Trust Fund||07/05/22||$7,000,000|
|Donation to Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation (AVLF)||07/05/22||-$500,000|
|Donation to Grove Park Renewal||08/15/22||-$500,000|
|Increase of adjacent parcel spending at 143 Alabama St||09/06/22||-$2,000,000|
|Transfer to Metro Atlanta Land Bank Authority (MALB)||09/06/22||-$400,000|
|Consulting services from Gordian Group||09/06/22||-$192,088|
|Donation to Wholesome Wave Georgia||11/07/22||-$500,000|
|Donation to Community Foundation for Forest Cove residents relocation and utility payments||12/05/22||-$600,000|
|IGA with Invest Atlanta for Mayor’s Faith-Based Development Initiative||12/05/22||-$4,500,000|
|Donation to Neighbor in Need||02/20/23||-$75,000|
|Donation to House Proud||02/20/23||-$75,000|
|Donation to MicroLife Institute||03/20/23||-$75,000|
|Donation to Neighbor in Need Reynoldstown||05/15/23||-$75,000|
|Donation to HOPE Atlanta||05/15/23||-$75,000|
|Safe and Secure Housing Program||pending||-$800,000|
|Housing Help Center||pending||-$600,000|
|FY2024 contribution to Affordable Housing Trust Fund||pending||$8,000,000|
|$9,910,412.00||running total of fund balance based on legislation|
|$20,937,500.00||status as reported in FY23 Adopted Budget (p.572) (July 2022)|
|$26,303,324.00||status as reported in FY24 Proposed Budget (p.574) (May 2023)|
|also referenced in 05/10/23 press release|
Atlanta Civic Circle is publishing this story as part of ATL Budget, a civic engagement project in partnership with Capital B, Canopy Atlanta, and the Center for Civic Innovation, to help you understand where your tax dollars will go—and how you can have a say about it. To keep up, follow #ATLBudget on Twitter and Instagram.