Progress report

Housing is an essential element for a secure life. We have worked diligently over the last several years to expand housing opportunities for Athenians. With over 40,000 Athens-based employees commuting into town each day for work, we have enormous need for greater residential opportunity. Every one of those individuals whose commute is shortened has more time with family and kids, more time to relax, and spends less time traveling and spending time on the road. This strengthens our community with more people able to be fully committed to Athens, and not having to divide attention between here and another community. 

Incentives to build. Since 2019 we have developed six Tax Allocation Districts in which the ACC government can partner with private developers to bring additional below-market housing stock to construction. In addition, the first quarter of 2022 will see a re-development incentive for aging commercial properties and apartment complexes that will provide an attractive residential density bonus in exchange for creating new permanently affordable homes. In the case of these aging commercial properties, this will bring new housing to sites that may need substantial repairs, but have ideal locations along highways and transit routes, and are well served by water, sewer and high speed data lines.

Streamlining building codes. We have also moved forward with streamlining code sections regarding redevelopment and land management, which will protect our environment while providing a functional path to needed development.

Inclusionary zoning. The Inclusionary Zoning Task Force that was assigned to the Planning Commission to develop this strategy will then develop new ordinances to expand access to auxiliary dwelling units (“in law suites”), small scale homes and cottage courts, and will develop a suite of incentives for building affordable single family homes, in addition to the exemption from sewer and water tap-in fees that was implemented in 2021.

Revitalization. In addition to our longstanding partnerships with area affordable housing providers, I was a driving force behind the purchase and revitalization plan for the North Downtown/Bethel Midtown Village area. This will bring more than 500 bedrooms of additional below-market apartments, as well as 500+ market-rate bedrooms, to a desirable downtown location, replacing a crumbling, poorly managed complex that was the site of all too many scenes of violence. Extreme care has been taken to ensure that children and families living in the area have full opportunity to remain residents in the revitalized neighborhood and for children to retain continuity of attendance at their existing schools. We have learned the lessons from the displacement experienced by residents in other communities’ redevelopment plans, and are making conscious choices that will serve the health and continued livelihood of our residents.

Next steps

New housing efforts in East Athens/Nellie B community. The next wave of revitalization should support other communities in Athens, most notably the East Athens/Nellie B community, which is the Athens Housing Authority area with the greatest concentration of children. Driven by engagement with local nonprofits, small business owners and residents, we can highlight the beauty and vitality of East Athens just waiting to have its day in the sun.   

The Housing First approach. For the unsheltered community in Athens, we will work even harder to support individuals with intensive case management that re-connects individuals with society, jobs and housing, and we will dedicate newly constructed units to re-house those that have fallen on hard times. We will dramatically ramp-up our Housing First approach to ensure there are new opportunities to get unhoused Athenians off the streets, under a roof and into a warm bed. It is evident that underlying behavioral health and chemical use challenges can only be effectively addressed when someone isn’t worried about whether they have to clear a new place in the woods tonight or if their tent has been damaged. We all have family members who have been wounded by some of these underlying issues, and we all want to direct our most vulnerable residents to greater opportunity in life. 

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