Above: Techwood Homes redevelopment to Centennial Place. Source: Google Earth
The Roles & Priorities of
Metro Atlanta's Housing Authorities
Wednesday, August 30, 2023, 9:30 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.
St. Luke's Episcopal Church | 435 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30308
With the nation's highest level of income inequality and the lack of deeply affordable housing stock, the unmet need in the City of Atlanta and the region is significant. Metro Atlanta needs 27,000 more affordable housing units for households earning at or below 50 percent of the area's median income. Critical stakeholders in providing housing solutions for low-income families are the region's 10 housing authorities. At the August 30th Atlanta Regional Housing Forum, we'll speak with representatives of four housing authorities to learn more about their current work and priorities.
America's public housing model was created in 1934 as a part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal to address housing and infrastructure needs throughout the nation. Atlanta's Techwood Homes, the nation's first public housing project, was built in Atlanta in 1935. Since this time, there has been a sea change in housing policy. As a result of the HOPE VI program, housing authorities work to "forge partnerships with other agencies, local governments, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses to leverage support and resources."
Transitions from early public housing models to the 1990s HOPE VI program have not been welcomed by all housing advocates and public housing residents. The use of housing vouchers continues to be a challenge as Georgia law does not require property owners to accept them – leaving many unable to find suitable housing using their vouchers. Housing authorities have worked with property owners to mitigate their concerns, with mixed results.
While there are lingering challenges, there are also incredible opportunities. In the last few years, the region's largest housing authority, Atlanta Housing, has begun to ramp up its redevelopment plans for former housing projects demolished using HOPE VI. Additionally, the City of Atlanta and other regional jurisdictions are starting to look seriously at public land as a solution for the growing affordable housing need.
In the City of Atlanta, Mayor Dickens mobilized a strike force to coordinate efforts between multiple city agencies. Last June, Atlanta representatives participated in a 10-month incubator cohort from the Government Finance Officers Association entitled "Putting Assets to Work," focusing on strategies to use public assets, especially city-owned land, better. And most recently, the City announced the formation of the Atlanta Urban Development Corporation, which Josh Humphries, senior housing policy advisor to the Mayor, described “as an operationalization of the Affordable Housing Strike Force.”
New board and staff leadership at Atlanta Housing have developed a five-year strategic plan aimed at improving housing options and quality of life. “The Plan covers more than just housing, but also how we show up in our community, how we partner, and how we build not just homes, but build better neighborhoods and better lives for residents,” said Atlanta Housing President and CEO Eugene Jones.
What is the status of Atlanta Housing’s development plans? How are metro Atlanta’s other housing authorities addressing the need in extreme market conditions? As suburban poverty has increased in the last two decades, how have regional housing authorities adapted to meet the need? How are the agencies encouraging rental property owners to accept housing vouchers?
Join us at St. Luke’s Episcopal on August 30 as we ask these questions and more at our next Atlanta Regional Housing Forum. Our guests will be:
Eugene E. Jones, Jr., President & CEO, Atlanta Housing
Beth Brown, CEO, Gainesville Housing Authority*
Douglas Faust, CEO, Decatur Housing Authority
Among our recommended reading for Wednesday's Housing Forum is "Bowen's Bricks: Conversations with Strong People from a Strong Community" - an essay by Randy G. Gibbs.
Excerpt: “Bowen’s Bricks” symbolically refer to the people who made the Bowen Homes public housing project a strong community. Like the construction material - these people are common, salt-of-the-earth folk that been put through the fires of neglect, drugs, crime and poverty. Still, they have remained resilient. They have remained strong. Just as physical bricks united form impenetrable walls, these symbolic bricks have remained united and formed an enduring community."
Reminder: The Atlanta Regional Housing Forum is free to attend in person or watch remotely. We ask that attendees consider bringing nonperishable food items for donation to St. Luke’s Food Pantry program.
DOWNLOADS & LINKS
Atlanta plans to embrace “European-style social housing;” Sean Keenan, Atlanta Civic Circle.
Atlanta wants more landlords to accept Section 8 vouchers; Kristal Dixon, Axios Atlanta.
Putting Assets to Work; Government Finance Officers Association
Public Housing History; National Low Income Housing Coalition.
About HOPE VI; U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development