The top five candidates in the race for Atlanta mayor, according to the latest polling numbers, tackled one of the city’s most vexing questions Tuesday night: how to boost Atlanta’s housing supply.
Their answers came during a forum in front of a few hundred real estate professionals at Clark Atlanta University. It was hosted by the Council for Quality Growth, Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors and Atlanta Realtors Association.
Former Mayor Kasim Reed, once again a candidate to lead the city, says Atlanta’s problems with rising rents and unforgiving traffic could both be solved. He says start by building on undeveloped land around MARTA stations.
“I think we should be highly aggressive – all gas, no brakes – on development around every MARTA stop,” Reed said.
It’s not just MARTA stations, according to attorney Sharon Gay. She says the city has acres and acres of vacant land that can be developed.
“We can accommodate several hundred thousand new residences in those area without having to do anything in our historic neighborhoods,” she said.
Wherever new housing is built, current city council president Felicia Moore says Atlanta needs to better prepare for more growth.
“If we build more housing, we’ve got to make sure that we’re able to support it,” said Moore. “With our services, with our police officers, we’ve got to have firefighters with trucks that can reach these buildings.”
Council member Antonio Brown says no decision about where things are built should be made without the go-ahead from Neighborhood Planning Units.
“The community deserves to have a say,” said Brown. “We have NPUs, the late Maynard Jackson developed the NPU system so that neighborhoods could determine what kind of development they see in they’re communities.”
Andre Dickens says as mayor, he’d rely on a tactic that he’s implemented as city council member: convincing reluctant Atlantans to welcome more neighbors by using incentives for developers.
“I gave people density bonuses in exchange for 10 or 15 percent of the units being set aside for affordability,” said Dickens.
The candidates also discussed ways to fight the city’s elevated violent crime rate and weighed in on the Atlanta City Council’s decision last week to approve a new police and fire training station on 85 acres of forest land.
Brown stuck by his “no” vote; Dickens explained his “yes” vote. Gay said she supports the new training center; Moore said she would have voted “yes” had there been a tie among council members. Reed hedged, saying he supports the training center, but that he was “not yet persuaded that the location is the best location.”