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- While many have solid homes where they find comfort and rest in Athens, others are struggling to find places that are safe, well-kept and accessible to community resources. This has been affirmed in recent research from Harvard on housing affordability, which found that we are one of the toughest markets in the nation for renters to become home owners, and in which many residents’ incomes are disproportionately used for housing costs. We can help change that by encouraging new developments and redevelopment to include quality housing stock for a variety of income levels, ages, and family sizes in close proximity to employment and amenities. Children growing-up in diverse, vibrant environments benefit from this approach, and it creates areas that are easier to maintain, keep safe, and creates access to employment, schools, medical needs, shopping, and resources.
- More than just identifying that we need affordable, safe, housing options accessible to all, Athens needs a comprehensive housing policy with measurable goals. Then, we need to create the toolbox to achieve these aims. This isn’t rocket science, but work that can rely on a wealth of research and existing efforts that have borne fruit nationwide, like requirements for new developments to include affordable homes (“inclusionary zoning”, in industry terminology), along with associated incentives from the Unified Government.
- We must recognize that the most common route to wealth creation in the United States is home ownership, and should encourage movement toward home ownership for Athens’ residents – especially those black and brown residents that have been historically neglected – as we enhance educational support and employment options. It is through home ownership that people support their children in college, and pass-on wealth to them, as well as create stable communities.
- Areas that were built in the 1960s and 1970s that have become obsolete – or worse than that, havens for crime – should be re-developed with local incentives to expand our quality housing stock and provide new commercial opportunities at the same time. Tax Allocation Districts and use of Federal Tax Credits are among the tools that can help us achieve this aim.