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Atlanta to use up to $7.5M credit line on rapid housing for the homeless

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(The Center Square) — Invest Atlanta’s board recently approved a $7.5 million line of credit for rapid housing in Atlanta.

The line of credit is financed through the city’s Housing Opportunity Bond Fund.

The city and the Atlanta Continuum of Care — a group that includes representatives from nonprofits, businesses and community groups that want to end homelessness in Atlanta — will use the financing to establish new “flexible-build communities” of roughly 500 “quickly built, low-cost micro units.” These units can serve as “temporary, semi-permanent or permanent shelter and housing” for homeless people.

“Often taxpayers have strong negative opinions about bonds and other funding sources when the impact serves those experiencing homelessness,” Naomi Hattaway, an affordable housing and homelessness prevention consultant, told The Center Square via email. “The reality is that taxpayers fund subsidies of all sorts, such as tax credits for large developers and mortgage benefits through lending programs.

“The statistics on long-term impacts from temporary and semi-permanent housing opportunities show this as a better use of taxpayer funds than other typical responses to homelessness, such as emergency rooms, local jails, and other law enforcement responses,” Hattaway added. “Intentional and thoughtful temporary and supportive housing also has a high rate of economic value in terms of low returns to the homelessness system.”

While Georgia saw a 45.6% decline in its homeless population between 2007 and 2022, it has increased by 4.4% since 2020. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development numbers indicate that 9.9 in every 10,000 people in Georgia were experiencing homelessness in 2022.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced a plan to build and preserve 20,000 affordable housing units within eight years.

“The construction of new units will always provide a significant portion of our affordable housing strategy,” Dickens said in remarks last week, adding that “it will take time to plan, develop, and build these units.”

“The crisis we are seeing of people experiencing homelessness calls for experimenting with new construction and product types that allow for rapid manufacturing developments we can put in place quickly,” the mayor added. “We can’t forget about the people struggling right now to make ends meet. Struggling to stay in their homes. They can’t afford to leave, but they can’t afford to stay. This is why our affordable housing initiatives also include a specific focus on the retention of units both for those in substandard conditions and those who are at risk of being priced out.”

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