Finding affordable housing in Athens is a real challenge for many of us. Some seniors are getting priced out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in for their whole lives. Working people have trouble finding single-family homes they can afford. The good news is this is a problem that local government can effectively address, and if I’m elected mayor, we’ll make housing more affordable.

Kelly Girtz on Affordable Housing in Athens

"We need every neighborhood to be full of amenities that make life better but at tax rates you can afford."As your mayor, Kelly would support:- A property tax freeze for low-income senior citizens- SPLOST spending to buy down development costs ($15 million over 5 years)- Inclusionary zoning to incentivize developers to create permanently affordable housing

Posted by Kelly Girtz for Athens Mayor on Tuesday, March 27, 2018

As promised, here’s the “how?” I propose we start with this three-point plan:

  1. Permanently freeze property taxes for low-income seniors. Sometimes referred to as a “property tax circuit breaker,” policies similar to this protect homeowners from a property tax “overload” by “breaking the circuit” of the increasing tax. Under my proposal, homeowners who are 65 years old and at or below median income for Athens-Clarke County would have their property taxes frozen at current levels for as long as their income remains at that threshold.
  2. Spend $15 million of SPLOST funds over 5 years to buy down housing costs. These funds would cover certain building expenses, such as planting street trees, building road extensions and sidewalks, installing water and sewer connections and stormwater facilities. In exchange, we get a legal commitment from developers to sell a portion of their new units at affordable rates to eligible middle and lower income buyers.
  3. Develop and enact an inclusionary zoning program. Because Georgia state law may not allow for an inclusionary zoning program that allows local governments to require developers to build affordable housing units or contribute to a fund to pay for them, I would create a program that provides incentives in the form of density bonuses or contributions to a housing trust fund.

In addition to these priority actions, I would also consider pursuing a range of other policies to create more affordable housing in Athens, including: enhancing partnerships with local non-profit housing providers; the use of tax allocation districts (TADs) to ensure that redeveloped areas create new affordable units, even as they bring jobs and more attractive corridors; changing zoning codes to allow for “granny flats;” establishing a tax abatement plan to encourage investments in home renovation projects; working with local employers to set up Employer Assisted Housing programs, among other options.

Maybe you have some ideas of your own. I’d love to hear them! Together, we can make Athens a more livable, supportive community for all!

Kelly Girtz