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Dear Decaturish – Is Decatur serious about affordable housing?

Decatur Editor's Pick

Dear Decaturish – Is Decatur serious about affordable housing?

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Bill Choate, of Decatur, works on S. McDonough Street for the Martin Luther King Jr. Service project in Decatur, Ga. on Sunday, January 15, 2017. The project is intended to help seniors in Decatur stay in their homes. File photo.
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Dear Decaturish,

The city of Decatur has an important opportunity to do what is right for its residents at the Planning Commission meeting on July 14th.

The purpose of the meeting is to follow the recommendation of the Affordable Housing Task Force to implement a mandatory inclusionary housing policy. Mandatory inclusionary housing will increase affordable housing. Why? The city’s affordable housing results are abysmal.  Since 2004 under voluntary inclusionary housing, developers have the option to include affordable units. Only 21 out of 1,500 new units built were affordable. Only 6 out of the 1,500 units currently planned in the city are affordable. Out of 300 units at the AMLI, next to Decatur High School, zero are affordable. Decatur, WE have a problem!

The city of Decatur prides itself on being a diverse community, winning awards and national recognition. The primary goal of the city’s 2000 Strategic Plan was to “Maintain and encourage racial, ethnic, economic, cultural, and other types of diversity.”

The 2010 Strategic Plan underscores the importance of diversity.  The second of its four guiding principles is “Encourage a diverse and engaged community.” Who is included in this diverse community in Decatur?  Think of teachers, firefighters, city workers, and business/service workers who can afford to live where they work.

The truth is this: Decatur is not only losing diversity, but it is also doing so a rapid clip. The Black population’s decline in the last 15 years from over 40% to 21.7% as of 2018 is one example. Seniors are missing the opportunity to age in place due to high taxes spurred on by gentrification. Individuals with intellectual and physical challenges are important contributors to our community.

The challenge of gentrification intensifies with the small size of Decatur. There is an urgency to act quickly and effectively. Dr. King talked about the “urgency of now.” Why? There is limited available land to develop.

Legacy Park, the former United Methodist Children’s Home, is ground zero for affordable housing. The city owns it. The city controls land use through zoning. What does this mean? We OWN it. We are the citizens whose tax dollars made the land purchase possible. How far are we willing to go to commit to our cause?

The difference between a protest and a campaign is a series of actions that continue until a specific goal is reached.  One of our goals is to achieve 100+ affordable units at Legacy Park, the former United Methodist Children Home. In addition to achieving a more diverse community, there is job security.  The construction of 100 affordable homes will generate an estimated $11.7 million in local income, 161 local jobs and $2.2 million in local taxes (per Housing Investments Spark Economic Stimulus and Job Creation, Fact Sheet: Opportunity Starts at Home Campaign, 2019.)

Support mandatory inclusionary housing at the July 14th meeting at 7 p.m. via zoom.

Register and comment at https://www.decaturga.com/bc-pc/page/planning-commission-special-called-meeting-1

– Phillip Cuffey

Beacon Hill Black Alliance for Human Rights

Coalition for a Diverse Decatur

Coalition for a Diverse DeKalb

Better Living Together

 

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