Candidates for city elections have criticized the affordable housing plan adopted by Athens City Council last Monday, saying it won’t help most residents in the city.
The plan, first introduced by Sarah Grace, D-At Large, provides recommendations to the city for building more affordable housing, including a recommendation that the city work in tandem with private contractors to create housing worth between $125,000 and $250,000, Grace said. The plan also recommends that the city create a department for housing and redevelopment.
Now that it is passed, Grace and other councilmembers will work to act on those recommendations.
“This may include some modifications to code and zoning,” Grace said in an email. “There may also be opportunities to approve public-private partnerships or tax increment financing to help facilitate opportunities for increasing the availability of affordable housing.”
There are not any costs yet to the city because of the plan, but there will be if a housing and redevelopment department is created, she said.
The adoption of the plan by city council is only the first step, Grace said in an email. She hopes that the city will eventually provide incentives to housing developers to build more affordable units of housing within the city.
But some feel that the plan does not go far enough to provide housing in the city to those that need it most.
Chris Monday, a City Council candidate who spoke at the meeting last Monday, said the plan does not do enough to address the issues affecting most Athens residents.
“My criticism is that many people in Athens who are living paycheck to paycheck are ignored as if we don't exist,” Monday said in an email. “To say there is a need for new homes for white collar workers seems to me to say there is no need to solve some of the major income inequality issues we are facing in Athens and in this country.”
While the plan addresses affordable housing, one thing it does not specifically focus on is low-income housing, which is in high need in the city, Grace said at the meeting last Monday. She hopes that the city will be able to make requirements within the public-private sector partnerships to include low-income housing in new developments. The plan also does not address rental housing, Grace said.
Monday said a city effort like this one would only widen the wage gap and inflate economic inequalities in Athens.
“There are plenty of homes in Athens that are affordable for the demographic they are considering, and whatever they spent on research is money wasted,” he said in an email. “It would take a simple Google search to find less expensive homes than they are planning to build.”
Damon Krane, a candidate in the Athens mayoral race, agrees with Monday. To him, this revitalization is synonymous with gentrification.
“It's just a plan to move wealthier people in so that they can buy more expensive houses, so that real estate agents can get bigger commissions, so that the private developers that build those houses can make a lot of money and so that landlords can keep charging high rent,” Krane said.
Building houses worth up to a quarter of a million dollars will not lower the cost of living in a town where the median sale price for a house is already about $169,000, he said.
“It's not going to lower rent prices (either), because the houses that are being built are even more expensive than the ones that (residents) already can’t afford,” he said. “It’s just obscene that either our city officials are out of touch with the vast majority of Athenians or that they just don’t care and are just out for themselves.”