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"You don't have to build it new," Keating suggests. "Go buy some properties – they're out there – and fix them up."
The housing authority actually is proposing something similar to that. While the agency doesn't intend to buy properties, it is working on obtaining long-term leases on 5,000 units of "workforce" housing throughout the city. The apartments would be available for minimum-wage earners, all the way up to families of four who earn less than $40,000.
White points out that since public-housing residents are now required to work, the new units are comparable to those lost to in the demolitions.
The addition of the 5,000 units would bring the city's total number of public-housing units, after the upcoming demolitions, to nearly 10,000. That's about 1,600 shy of the number of inhabitable units that existed before the first wave of demolitions.
Boston says the city should take this model a step further and offer all developers incentives to set aside a certain percentage of units for low-income families. The city saw a huge surge in tax revenue as a result of the gentrification that stemmed from the housing authority's new communities. "It's literally hundreds of millions of dollars," Boston says. "That, I argue, is sufficient enough to address the people who are being adversely affected by revitalization."
Earlier this year, legislation to create those kind of incentives was introduced before Atlanta City Council. But Andy Schneggenburger, executive director of the nonprofit Atlanta Housing Association of Neighborhood-based Developers, says the incentives aren't persuasive enough.
AHAND looked at hundreds of other cities and counties that passed similar legislation, and found that voluntary ordinances "typically aren't successful at all," Schneggenburger says.
"They just don't produce the kind of numbers you need," he continues. "You can't afford to have just a slight increase. You need major production."
He's now advocating that a mandatory 10 percent of new development be set aside for low-income units – with benefits to developers to help offset the cost.
One thing is for certain: Something has to happen to stave the loss of affordable housing in Atlanta, and soon.
"Obviously, everybody wants to live in a better neighborhood," Boston says. "But we've got to do that in a way that everybody can win. And I think everybody can win, if we address specifically those who are likely to lose."
For those likely to lose – particularly the residents of Atlanta's ill-fated public housing – action will have to come fast. Or it will come too late.
"What happens when the people all come together and realize the trick that was played on them?" Hightower asks. "Why aren't people concerned? Why can't they see what's going on?"
TUNE IN: Listen to the writer speak on a televised affordable-housing panel hosted by Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell. The discussion will be aired on Fulton Government Television (FGTV) on Wed., Sept. 19, through Sun., Sept. 23, at 2 p.m., 8 p.m. and 11 p.m.
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