Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens spoke to a full crowd downtown at Two Peachtree Street Thursday morning, updating the public on his administration’s accomplishments toward improving housing affordability and introducing the city’s new Housing Help Center.
The mayor, along with other important players in his multi-phase affordable housing agenda, discussed the progress that the city’s public, private and philanthropic partners have made so far, as well as the steps Dickens’ administration intends to take next to bring his vision for Atlanta’s housing to fruition.
Mayor Dickens said that the city has received roughly $300 million in funding this past May to be dedicated to bettering Atlanta’s affordable housing programs, serving as the city’s largest investment in affordable housing in its 175-year history. Two-thirds of this funding is attributed to fundraising efforts on behalf of the Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta, and the remaining $100 million from a bond secured in collaboration with the Atlanta City Council.
Sarah Kirsch, managing director of housing funds at the CFGA, said approximately $20 million of this investment will be utilized by the end of the year, helping create 600 units of affordable housing to add to Atlanta’s pipeline.
“It is a public-private-nonprofit-philanthropic partnership that makes this happen,” Kirsch said. “But the core to that is public. You only have your private and philanthropic resources willing to come to the table with the strength of leadership that’s being provided by the city, and by all the public partners represented today.”
Dickens aims to create or preserve a total 20,000 units of affordable housing in the city over a span of eight years. So far, 3,148 affordable housing units have been completed and an additional 4,802 units are currently in various stages of progression. About 1,500 units are on track to close this year.
Dickens said that ensuring Atlanta’s population has access to proper housing will lay the framework for an improved quality of life among residents in other key areas.
“Even before my time as mayor, affordable housing has been one of my most significant priorities,” Dickens said. “We know that increasing the amount of safe, stable and affordable housing will provide significant benefits throughout our community, increased economic mobility and reduction in crime, better health outcomes (and) higher educational achievement.”
Dickens’ administration is also making strides to set the city’s rapid housing initiative into motion and improve its housing preservation tactics, assisting residents who have fallen into homelessness as well as those financially cornered into shoddy and unsafe living conditions.
His team will develop quick-delivery housing units and relevant supportive services as part of a $4 million investment and partnership with local nonprofit Partners for HOME. Shipping containers purchased from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency will be transformed into temporary rapid-housing units for Atlanta’s unhoused population.
The mayor said that the city will be able to house 40 individuals in Downtown by Christmas and aims to produce a minimum of 500 quick-delivery units by the end of 2025. He also said that the initiative will begin Downtown and eventually spread to other sections of the city.
As for residents trapped in dilapidated housing, Dickens said his agenda pressures property managers of existing affordable housing communities to supply their tenants with safe and habitable living conditions.
“They can’t afford to leave, but they also can’t afford to stay,” Dickens said about residents living in decrepit and unstable housing conditions, like those witnessed from southeast Atlanta’s Forest Cove apartments. “This is why our affordable housing initiatives also include a specific focus on the retention of units that are both sometimes substandard right now, and for those (residents) that are at risk of being priced out.”
With the help of the Atlanta City Council, Dickens’ administration has dedicated $800,000 to expanding the Atlanta Police Department’s enforcement of the city’s housing code. The mayor said 17 property interventions have occurred so far this year.
“We must ensure that no other property in Atlanta becomes the next Forest Cove,” Dickens said.
The mayor also said that his team is working to increase Atlanta’s existing housing stock while ushering new life into an already prosperous section of the city. Two Peachtree, a 41-story office building from the 1970s, will be converted into a mixed-income residential property capable of adding more than 400 housing units to Atlanta’s supply, about half of which will be reserved for affordable housing.
The City of Atlanta Housing Help Center, officially announced by the mayor’s office in May, is located on Two Peachtree Street’s ground floor and will facilitate Atlanta residents’ access to affordable housing resources.
“We’re excited to launch this new office and provide yet another tool for our residents to get the help that they need,” Dickens said in closing remarks. “There’s always more work for us to do, so we will relentlessly move forward in pursuit of our goals.”