Coalition February 9 meeting

February 9 Coalition Meeting on Affordable Housing

  • Carrie Sjogren and Wendy Cromwell, co-chairs; Richelle Patton and Rep. Becky Evans (D-89), guests; Beate Sass; Tim Sass; Betty Jo Stevens; Holly Grimes; Pamela Privette; Kristin Allin; Zoe Seiler, Decaturish; Catherine Carter; David Lewicki; Carol Burgess; and Vanessa Amos
Black History Month
  • Carrie talked about our hometown heroes, Tony Powers and Lesa Myers of the City Commission, as part of Black History Month. Tony Powers, our Mayor pro tem. has served since 2015. His family was one of the original families who bought their house in Oakhurst for a dollar. He has been a champion in the city and was integral to getting missing middle approved, Lisa Myers, city commissioner, joined in 2019 and was integral to the reinstatement as well..
Missing Middle
  • Carrie announced the City Commission gave final approval to reinstating Missing Middle Housing options of duplexes, triplexes and quads in our residential zoning. The new zoning goes into effect. June 30 and gave big kudos to everyone on this call for helping us to get this across the finished line. She mentioned that in December, we talked about how the opposition set the tone at the October hearing, and it was very negative. “I think it’s fair to say that we control the conversation for the next 2 hearings.” She is super excited that we have been able to right the wrong of the past.
  • Huge shoutout to Kristin Allin, who was a true champion of the measure. Kristin, who is now a regional planner with Atlanta Regional Commission, commended everyone on an amazing job. “Thank you for you guys, too, because honestly, I could get in there and do all of the data. But without the personal stories, this type of policy — it just can’t move forward. I mean you have to have the heart behind it. So I was really happy to do the data and be the face of it. You guys really gave it the heart and the story, and I’m forever grateful because it’s a such a necessary change, and I think it’ll impact other areas as well and encourage people to look at this policy. So thank you all.
  • We need to stay involved to ensure that duplexes, triplexes, and quads will be affordable in some way, shape or form for workforce and middle income earners and that we are hoping to help shape the policy so that our teachers and our firefighters and all of our community helpers and our seniors.
Affordable Housing 101
  • Richelle Patton, an affordable housing nonprofit developer for 29 years, who provided an Affordable Housing 101 overview, who comes to this work from her Christian faith. Link to her presentation: approaches affordable housing from the rental housing perspective.
    • HUD affordable housing definition – household spends no more than 30% of  gross income on housing and utilities.  You can buy a $1 million home, and it could be affordable, depending on what your income is.
    • The Federal definition of low-income households are those who earn no more than 80% of the area median income (AMI). Newly constructed affordable housing is usually restricted to households earning between 30% and 60% of AMI. 
    • Missing middle housing (duplexes, triplexes and quads) is generally for individuals earning 60% or 80% to 120% AMI.  She defined income levels in the Metro Atlanta area. Then she looked at Metro Area rent and house prices and the income gap.
    •  In the last decade, housing prices (rent and ownership) have risen 30% while incomes have only risen 11%. This is the reason for the affordability housing crisis – housing prices are outpacing earnings by a large margin, creating the affordability gap. What does that look like in a salary that would translate to about $43,600? So if you look at what a minimum wage earner would need to afford a 2 bedroom rent at fair market price, they would have to work 2.9 full time jobs.
    •  In Decatur, using 2019 data: The average hourly wage was $15.11. What do we need to do to afford a median rent, and on Zillow that year the median rent indicator was $1,782 in the 30030 ZIP Code? That would mean that the average hourly worker in Decatur would have to work 88 hours per week, or roughly 2 full-time jobs to afford to rent in a median-priced apartment at $1,782.
    • If someone is considered low-income in Decatur, that would be roughly $48,000 a year for a family of 4. If you’re paying 30% of your income, you could afford a 2-bedroom apartment at a little over a $1,000 a month. The median rent is $1782 which means there’s a gap of $782 a month. As a result, this family is going to be working more than normal to afford to live in Decatur or looking at most likely substandard housing and most likely outside of Decatur. Richelle then provided an overview of Decatur home prices and their increases from 2019.
  •  Affordable housing does not mean cheap housing. Affordable Housing developers face the same cost pressures as for-profit developers.
    • The phasing of Legacy Park affordable housing units and how Decatur Housing Authority is using tax credits to help fund these units.
    • These are federal tax credits that are allocated by State agencies. Our State agency here is the Georgia Department of Community Affairs. It’s a highly competitive process.  About a third of the applications that go in every year get funded. Applications take 4 to 6 months to put together with maybe 30% chance of getting funded. So, when we get these tax credits and build the housing, we’re in this for the long, long haul. We are going to own this housing for 15 to 30 years, That’s how the tax credit rules are.
    • In Decatur, it is not possible to find property suited to build multifamily or single family affordable housing, except Legacy Park, which I think most of us realized was really the last gas of trying to create at scale affordable housing in our city.
    • Current phase of Legacy Park and its tax credits. Application was put in in May and was awarded in November. They will start construction in the summer and be done  late summer of 2024, then start leasing.
    •  No one recommendation or strategy is going to solve the affordable housing crisis, either in Decatur, in the state or nationally, but the blending and adding on little piece by piece by piece, like a jigsaw puzzle really helps to start chipping away at the problem.
    • For Decatur. those 126 units are something transformational for the families who will live in them. They will be able to move into brand new units with all of the amenities, and more to come. Richelle detailed additional projects coming on line.
    • The Decatur Housing Authority is one of the few in the State of Georgia that actually has the ability to offer project-based vouchers. They also offer portable vouchers where a family who gets to the top of the waiting list gets a voucher, and they go look for private landlords in our community.
    • Richelle talked about the trend of faith-based initiatives and using the campuses of declining churches to create affordable housing campuses.
Under the Gold Dome: Legislation Update
  • Rep Becky Evans provided the 2023 legislative overview with the acknowledgement that we need all types of housing in Georgia.
    •  Becky has a brother who was homeless for 5 years so she is aware of the connection between mental health and lack of housing and everything.
    • ARC just released a presentation about affordable housing, which details there is no affordable housing in the Metro Atlanta area.
  • Evans is working on getting some of the state’s $6 billion surplus added to the The Housing Trust Fund to alleviate homelessness. She talked about how the fund has never been used to full capacity with only 2-3 projects getting allocated a year.
  • The governor’s housing initiatives this year include $37 million in infrastructure for workforce housing for factories in rural areas.
Q and A Discussion
  • Presenters discussed tax credits and a movement to remove them from the housing toolbox and what would replace them.
  • David Lewicki, Becky Evans and Richelle Patton talked about faith-based initiatives and metro church properties that might be good candidates for it.
  • Beate Sass discussed a rare affordable housing option for $750 a month that has come online in Edgewood. “There’s a beautiful, affordable housing opportunity in Edgewood, in a new townhome community. It’s a town home where my daughter’s living with 2 other young women who have mild intellectual development with disabilities.”
  • Bring the co-chairs your ideas as Carrie reminded us: “We will take everything into consideration, because this is a group where you know what we’ve proven is that when we work together we can do great things.”
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