Mayor Andre Dickens’ Affordable Housing and Housing Help Center Remarks

As prepared for delivery

Good morning. Thank you to everyone for coming out today. This event is all about housing and the City’s efforts to bring access to affordable housing to all Atlantans. I want to thank the previous speakers Sarah Kirsch, Terri Lee, and Eloisa Klementich. I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Courtney English, my Chief Policy Officer and Senior Advisor, and his housing team led by Josh Humphries. They work tirelessly to help us meet our affordable housing goals. And lastly, thanks to all the partners we have in the room. Affordable housing is truly a group project, and we need everyone here to join us in our efforts.

Even before my time as Mayor, affordable housing has been one of my most significant priorities. We know that increasing the amount of safe, stable, and affordable housing will provide significant benefits throughout our community: Increased economic mobility, a reduction in crime, better health outcomes, higher educational achievement. Our city cannot meet its full potential if our people do not have a stable place to lay their head at night.

I set a goal for my administration to build or preserve 20,000 affordable housing units in eight years. And we’ve hit the ground running. I am happy to announce that in the first two years we have collectively delivered over 3000 units with nearly 5000 more in the pipeline!

We’ve accomplished all this through a comprehensive approach. First, we are aggressively pursuing both new construction and retrofits on City-owned and privately held land and buildings. Second, we’ve worked to provide rapid and supportive housing for the unhoused population. Third, we’ve provided direct support to our seniors, legacy, and low-income residents to ensure they can remain in their current homes and neighborhoods. And lastly, one of the reasons we’re here today, we are opening the first ever Housing Help Center to directly connect those in need with the resources available.

We’ll touch on each of those areas today, but let’s start with one of our biggest purchases: the 41-story building that’s playing host for our event today. 2 Peachtree is a prime example of the scale we need to address this problem. This building was 41-stories of office space, but it will soon stand as an example of how to turn underutilized office space into transformational affordable housing with access to jobs, transit, and prime walkability. It will bring more residents and a new life to downtown Atlanta. 2 Peachtree will literally stand tall as a testament of our dedication to this work.

We also turned our attention to underutilized public land throughout the City. Last year we formed the Housing Strike Force to leverage this land and accelerate development of permanent affordable housing. In the spirit of our group project mentality, we pooled resources with Atlanta Housing, the Atlanta Beltline, Atlanta Public Schools, Invest Atlanta, MARTA, the Metro Atlanta Land Bank, and others to leverage all publicly held land within our city. Together, the Strike Force is moving forward on 40 public land projects across Atlanta.

In May, we delivered the largest single infusion of local funding for affordable housing in Atlanta’s history. We’ve secured 100 million dollars from the Whitehead and Woodruff Foundations in partnership with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, 100 million dollars from the Housing Opportunity Bond, and we are well on our way to raising an additional 100 million dollars in other private and philanthropic commitments for a total investment of 300 million dollars directly into affordable housing. And we are already putting that money to work. Since we announced this funding in May, we are on track to close on 1500 additional affordable units by the end of the year.

We are also planning an Affordable Housing Week at City Hall in January that will bring together express permitting and coordinated funding to move projects forward even faster.

Finally, I’m proud to announce that next month, Atlanta Housing will open up to 2,000 new project-based housing vouchers. These will play a critical role in bringing housing to our lowest income residents.

Over the next 6 years, we will continue leverage all the resources and tools at our disposal to develop and deliver thousands of units of affordable housing.

Our focus on building new units also extends to rapid housing programs to provide immediate assistance to the unhoused population. Based on the last point in time count, there are about 500 unhoused people in Downtown Atlanta. In August, we announced our Rapid Housing Initiative to provide quick-delivery housing to individuals experiencing homelessness. In partnership with Partners for HOME, we allocated 4 million dollars to purchase shipping container structures from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. Construction has already begun, and I am proud to announce that we will provide housing and wraparound services for 40 individuals before Christmas of this year.

And we’re not stopping until we build at least 500 Rapid Housing units across the city by the end of 2025. Last week, the Invest Atlanta board allocated an additional $7.5 million from the Housing Opportunity Bond to scale up the Rapid Housing work. We’ll keep working and making these investments until every person in Atlanta has a place to call home.

The construction of new units will always provide a significant portion of our affordable housing strategy, however it will take time to plan, develop, and build these units. We can’t forget about the people struggling right now to make ends meet. Struggling to stay in their homes. They can’t afford to leave, but they can’t afford to stay. This is why our affordable housing initiatives also include a specific focus on the retention of units both for those in substandard conditions and those who are at risk of being priced out.

By now, you should all have heard about our efforts to combat landlords like Millennia who allowed Forest Cove to fall into disrepair through neglect and mismanagement. We moved folks out of the unsafe conditions, but Millennia has failed to keep up their end of the bargain. Which is why we, in partnership with renowned attorney Ben Crump, are moving forward with a class action lawsuit that will address Millennia’s wrongdoing not just in Atlanta, but throughout the country.

We must ensure that no other property in Atlanta becomes the next Forest Cove. Our Safe and Secure Housing Initiative is a data-driven effort to identify and coordinate intervention efforts into multifamily properties lacking safe, quality housing options. In June, we worked with City Council to allocate 800 thousand dollars from the Housing Trust Fund to boost our enforcement capacity. Through APD’s Code Enforcement division and the Solicitor’s Office, with special thanks to both City Solicitor Raines Carter and Deputy Solicitor Erika Smith, we have already completed 17 property interventions and have brought four high-priority properties into compliance with five more on the way. We will not allow slumlords in our city, and we will relentlessly go after those who put our residents at risk.

Our legacy and senior residents have a special place in our heart. These are the people that have helped to build this city and they love their homes and their neighborhoods. We want to ensure that these folks can age in place in stable housing. We have several initiatives which will address these concerns, so I’ll quickly go through just a few of them now.

First, with the help of Tyler Perry, we paid back property taxes for over 300 seniors and effectively froze the property taxes for 100 low-income seniors for the next 20 years.

The City is also launching an Anti-Displacement Tax Fund which is projected to freeze taxes for over 1800 households for up to 20 years.

Invest Atlanta’s Owner-Occupied Rehab program just relaunched and will provide up to $30,000 per household for critical health and safety repairs.

These programs will allow many of our seniors to age in place providing generational wealth especially to Black families while also preserving affordable homeownership opportunities for future generations.

Lastly, with thanks to the City Council for passing our comprehensive package of housing resources, we are launching a 2 million dollar eviction diversion program to provide additional housing stability to those at risk of losing their homes. The new program will kick off right here at the Housing Help Center two weeks from tomorrow on November 10 at 10 AM.

These are only a few of the resources we’ve delivered in just the first 22 months of this administration. And if I’m honest, it’s difficult for even me to keep up with all the resources we have available, so we wanted to make it as simple as possible for people to access this support.

In just a little while, we will cut the ribbon and officially open the City’s first ever Housing Help Center. The Housing Help Center provides a one-stop shop to connect Atlanta residents with housing support with personalized case management from City of Atlanta Housing Navigators. The Help Center will be housed right here in 2 Peachtree, but it will also maintain a presence on the first floor of City Hall in the Office of Constituent Services, Monday through Friday, 9 to 5. The historic infusion of funding into programs like StarC’s eviction diversion, AVLF’s Right to Counsel pilot, Open Doors’ funding for unit placement, the Fulton Atlanta Community Action Authority’s utility assistance program, Partners for HOME’s rapid housing, and DCA’s Eviction Protection Program will bolster a unified effort to directly address the need.

And to be clear, we didn’t wait for this ribbon cutting to start the work. While the “official” opening is today, the Housing Help Center has already started to connect people to the resources available. We have already helped 28 families, seniors, single mothers, veterans, unhoused, and more access these services. We are excited to launch this new office and provide yet another tool for our residents to get the help they need.

Even with all that has been accomplished in these first two years, there is always more work to do. So we will relentlessly move forward in pursuit of our goals. We will continue to roll out partnerships to leverage the full breadth of resources available. We will aggressively deploy mixed-income housing throughout the city. We will make generational investments into housing preservation. We will ensure our legacy residents remain in the communities they built.

Because this is bigger than just the units and the numbers. It’s about providing stable housing, so our youth can go to school and learn and develop without worrying about where they’re going to sleep tonight.

It’s about providing safe and secure housing, so none of our neighbors will ever live with mold, caved in roofs, and rodent infestations like our neighbors at Forest Cove.

It’s about providing rapid housing and supportive services, so no one ever has to spend a night out on the streets of the City ever again.

It’s about ensuring that our community becomes healthier and safer because we know that stable housing is key to both health and safety.

It’s about addressing the systemic racial and economic inequities that have plagued our underserved communities for decades.

It’s about ensuring that every single person, every single family, every single senior, veteran, mother, father, young person has access to an affordable, safe, and secure place they can call home.

That every single person knows that Atlanta is their home. And when their home is at risk, we are here to help.

Thanks again to all of you here for doing your part of the group project. You have answered our calls and stepped up in support of our collective goals. Keep answering, keep pushing, and keep working, because together, we will continue to Move Atlanta Forward.

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