The Atlanta City Council approved a resolution Monday that urges residential developers receiving financial incentives from the city to accept tenants who pay rent using federal housing vouchers.
Doing so would open more housing to low-income residents at a time when the city faces an affordable housing crisis, according to the council.
Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari introduced the legislation earlier this month, saying at the time that with the soaring rents, rising inflation and a lack of affordable housing, the city “should be opening doors to responsible renters, not shutting them out.”
The resolution specifically says “it is the desire of the city of Atlanta to request that a provision be included in the funding agreement for any residential housing development receiving financial incentives from the city of Atlanta pursuant to which housing units would be made available to households utilizing Housing Choice Vouchers as a source of income, unless the project otherwise receives rental subsidy from Atlanta Housing.” Atlanta Housing is the public housing authority for low-income residents.
The legislation also requests that Invest Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the Fulton County Development Authority, and MARTA adopt similar provisions.
Financial incentives include Tax Exempt Bond Financing, Housing Opportunity Bond Financing, Tax Allocation District Financing, grant funding, loans, and lease-purchased bonds or similar property tax incentives.
The resolution notes that, “State law preempts the city of Atlanta from requiring the acceptance of Housing Choice Vouchers by landlords.” And because state law does not require landlords to accept vouchers, there are thousands of people who are unable to find an apartment.
More than half of renters in Atlanta pay more than 30% of their income toward housing, making their homes unaffordable. The “30% rule” is a federal housing metric used by the Department of Housing and Urban Development across the country.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta has also designated Atlanta’s housing market as largely unaffordable to low- and moderate-income families.
The resolution also says Atlanta Housing has a substantial waiting list of more than 20,000 families and individuals who are in need of housing assistance using vouchers.
Between July 1, 2020 through July 30, 2021, those with vouchers had a difficult time finding affordable housing and “some 496 vouchers expired before families could find housing that would accept [them] as rent,” the resolution says.