The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) set out five priorities for the upcoming year at its annual State of the Region event on Oct. 28.
ARC Executive Director and CEO Anna Roach presented the five priorities, which are housing, climate change, equity, infrastructure, and workforce development. The presentation mostly focused on housing.
“Community members are struggling to make ends meet, and too many are having difficulty accessing quality affordable housing,” Roach said.
Nicole Hendrickson, chairwoman of the Gwinnett County Commission, spoke about the housing crisis and announced a commitment from the ARC’s Local Leadership Housing Action Committee to address housing challenges in the region. Hendrickson co-chairs the committee. Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch and Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul are both on the committee.
“Housing is a basic human right,” Hendrickson said. “Safe and stable affordable housing is a necessity to achieving other human rights, like safety and security.”
The committee is comprised of leaders in the region and met over the past year to discuss the region’s housing challenges. According to a press release, committee members will work with their community leadership over the next two years to deepen their communities’ understanding of local housing and policy issues, increase local governments’ capacity to address housing issues, address housing challenges and funding through local, state, and federal means, and partner with public, private, and nonprofit organizations to come up with housing solutions.
In regards to climate change, Roach said the ARC plans to launch a new climate initiative in 2023 that will provide leaders in the region with expertise and technical assistance that they might need to access funding or make changes that are better for the climate.
Roach also spoke about equity in the region.
“Our goal is to build a region where everybody has the chance to succeed,” Roach said. She added that while Atlanta has been named by some publications as a top place to live or do business, it ranks low among U.S. cities in terms of upward mobility.
Verónica Maldonado-Torres, CEO and president of the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, also spoke about the importance of making sure the state has an inclusive economy.
Maldonado-Torres spoke specifically about the economic impact of the Hispanic and Latino community. According to Maldonado-Torres, the Hispanic community makes up roughly 19% of the U.S. population, and the community contributes more than $800 billion to the U.S. economy on an annual basis.
“But there are significant barriers to unleashing the full potential of this community that we simply cannot minimize or ignore anymore,” Maldonado-Torres said. She pointed to language barriers, a lack of financial education, a lack of tech and digital education, and more as some of the barriers the community faces.
Roach spoke about multiple infrastructure projects, and specifically called out the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and its role in increasing funding for projects in the region. She said in the past year, $2.9 billion of state and federal funding was spent on transportation improvements in the region. The ARC has also awarded $2 million in Livable Center (LCI) grants over the past year. LCI is a grant program that assists local jurisdictions in making their communities more walkable.
Roach went on to address concerns about workforce development, and filling job positions that might be created by projects funded by the federal infrastructure bill. She said the ARC plans to help identify and fund training programs for the future possible work, and also engage with the private sector, the technical college system in Georgia, and the education system at a lower level to help cultivate a strong workforce.
“We have to stop having workforce development conversations that don’t include the beginning of that pipeline,” Roach said.
The ARC also announced the winners of the 2022 Regional Excellence Awards during the event. The awards honor visionary projects that are improving quality of life in communities across metro Atlanta, according to a press release.
Innovative Development Award: Columbia Ventures LLC and MARTA for Edgewood – Candler Park Transit-Oriented Development.
Visionary Planning Award: City of Doraville for Code Changes and Implementation for a Sustainable Doraville.
Livable Center Award: City of Stockbridge for Stockbridge Amphitheater and Park.
Great Place Award: City of Avondale Estates and the Avondale Estates Downtown Development Authority for the Avondale Estates Town Green.
2022 Unsung Hero Award: Philip and Gail Ross.
2022 Harry West Visionary Award: Shirley Franklin.