I am encouraged by the affordable housing strategies and tools being considered by the city of Sandy Springs planners and consultants.
After all, I’m still haunted by Mayor Paul’s Jan. 5 description of affordable housing as “new houses in the $400,000 to $600,000 price range.” The mayor’s definition indicates he is either ignorant of or disinterested in the issue, perhaps both. It is an embarrassing reflection on Sandy Springs leadership.
I have been an affordable housing professional for almost 20 years and a Sandy Springs resident since 1999. The community has changed considerably in the last decade. It’s certainly not surprising that this location is sought after, given our MARTA access, quality schools, employment opportunities, social and recreational amenities, and easy access to all metro Atlanta has to offer.
But rising costs of existing housing and the luxury nature of new development are quickly pricing out our teachers, firemen, police officers, hospital employees, small business owners (to name but a few). These professionals are a critical part of our social fabric and what makes us great.
Making Sandy Springs a place where only the elite can afford to live is no good for anyone. Toni Morrison said, “All paradises, all utopias are designed by who is not there, by the people who are not allowed in.” It’s time for Sandy Springs to invest in those who live and work here now (versus force them out), but also to create opportunities for young residents and families who want to grow roots here.
It seems the lack of affordable housing in Sandy Springs has been whispered about for many years, but I thank Mercedes-Benz for raising the issue and getting it real attention. Maybe Sandy Springs is finally getting serious about addressing it?
Mixed-income housing, inclusionary zoning and affordable housing set-asides are established, tested tools. They have been used extremely successfully in cities across this country. I hope Sandy Springs will consider other strategies and resources as well: down payment assistance for teachers and public employees, employer-assisted housing programs, land trusts, city-supported homeownership and financial education (to name but a few).