The following appeared originally as a Saporta Report Thought Leadership column on May 16, 2017.
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership is elevating solutions to Atlanta’s affordable housing needs via a series of articles from our public, private, philanthropic, nonprofit, and community partners who – through “The Power of We” – can help define a coordinated set of policies, programs and resources that build and preserve affordable living opportunities for all. Last month, we shared examples of impactful investments of public capital generating affordable workforce housing. This month, Georgia ACT and the TransFormation Alliance speak to the critical role of nonprofit advocacy and community-based leadership.
The City of Atlanta, like many other cities, is experiencing a rebirth in its neighborhoods fueled by large infrastructure projects like the Atlanta BeltLine, Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Georgia State University’s expansion to the Turner Field site. These projects can greatly enhance quality of life, though redevelopment pressures can also raise living costs and tear at the cultural fabric of neighborhoods.
In Atlanta – as in other cities – nonprofit organizations are playing a key role in mitigating these pressures, often by advocating for policy changes. Two nonprofit led coalitions, City for All and the Transformation Alliance, are working to ensure residents in communities impacted by redevelopment share in the benefits these projects bring.
Georgia Advancing Communities Together (ACT) is working with a broad-based coalition of housing advocates to launch the City for All campaign, which will educate and mobilize citizens in support of legislation and resources needed to effectively address Atlanta’s urgent need for affordable and accessible housing. The Transformation Alliance (TFA) is a collaboration of government agencies, business partners, MARTA and nonprofits that promotes equitable transit oriented development (ETOD) in metro Atlanta linking public transportation and housing affordability. Representing the aligned interests of many of the advocacy organizations promoting affordable housing solutions, these two coalitions are advancing policy solutions to achieve the following goals:
- Mitigating involuntary displacement, especially in rapidly improving neighborhoods, using tools such as real estate tax abatements or deferrals, mandatory inclusionary zoning, and accessible financing for home maintenance and repair.
- Achieving long-term affordability to protect public investments in affordable housing through community land trusts.
- Providing resources through the creation of a Housing Trust Fund by 2021 with a dedicated source of annual funding to support and strengthen mission-driven, nonprofit housing developers, which are critical to an effective affordable housing delivery system.
- Altering inequitable development patterns by creating a “Living Transit Fund” to impact income mobility through transit investment while increasing MARTA ridership and revenues.
Policy is a critical component of an effective affordable housing delivery system and can open access to additional resources, as evidenced by the recent selection of the TransFormation Alliance to join the Strong, Prosperous, and Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC). SPARCC is a three-year initiative that will bolster local groups to lead improvements in equity, health, and environmental outcomes for all Atlanta residents alongside major new investments in transportation, which are increasing by billions of dollars.
The award from SPARCC includes $1 million in direct grant and technical assistance funds over the next three years. Additionally, SPARCC sites have access to an estimated $70 million in financing capital during that period. These resources will enable the TFA and Atlanta to create new models of equitable, healthy, and climate-wise development that benefit all residents. (See link and video to learn more from leaders and community members about what the TFA seeks to accomplish with SPARCC in Atlanta.)
In 2014, MARTA, in partnership with Invest Atlanta, selected Columbia Ventures as their development partner for the Edgewood/Candler Park Station transit oriented development (TOD). The project will be located on 6.4 acres of underutilized surface parking on the south side of the Edgewood/Candler Park Station. This project is part of MARTA’s broader TOD initiative, the goals of which are to increase ridership, generate revenue and support both local community development and regional economic development.
Addressing our affordable housing challenges will require the collaboration of myriad partners, and nonprofit advocacy coalitions are working together to outline and promote policy that complements the work of government and private sector developers. Our coalitions are unencumbered by the political pressures of government agencies and can often be more flexible than for profit companies in testing promising practices and ideas that stand to bring innovation. Perhaps most importantly, we are well connected to local communities and can work to ensure their needs are heard and they are ready to work with others to address the affordable housing challenge.
We support the investments that local government and other organizations are making in affordable housing, and we stand ready to partner with these enterprises to connect their efforts to the communities that need support most. We are focused on ensuring that the City of Atlanta is truly a City for All with affordable housing linked to transportation. We are committed to identifying housing solutions across the entire income spectrum and are determined to do our part to help build affordable living opportunities for all. If you want to be part of the affordable housing solution, we invite you to join us.