Atlanta mayoral candidates pledge to address housing concerns, mainly by continuing city’s current course

Candidates for Atlanta Mayor outlined how they will prevent displacement, address homelessness and accommodate new residents in the city.

Stephannie Stokes (screenshot) / WABE

Atlanta mayoral candidates recognized housing as one of the biggest issues facing the city, next to crime. Though, in a forum Wednesday, few supported any major shifts to the city’s current approach.

The Atlanta Regional Housing Forum hosted the event, covering gentrification, homelessness and zoning in the city.

“The new thing is doing the old thing. Just do what we said we would do,” at-large City Council member Andre Dickens said.

Dickens said the plan from the public-private coalition HouseATL was full of proposals aimed at preventing displacement in the city. One is to provide more property tax relief to vulnerable residents.

To help residents in Atlanta who may be at risk of homelessness, attorney Sharon Gay also said the city needs to look to the institutions that are already here.

“We must get [the Atlanta Housing Authority] back into the business of building housing,” Gay said.

Atlanta needs to use its own resources, she said, including its vacant land, to build more housing to support people who are now homeless.

Throughout the conversation, former Mayor Kasim Reed highlighted his own work around housing and homelessness, which he started during his previous term.

“If you want to know what someone will do, look at what they have done,” Reed said.

He said under his watch the city won a $30 million grant from HUD for Westside neighborhoods, and now it’s time for Atlanta to put that money to greater use.

No candidate advocated for big changes to density in Atlanta either. This is as neighborhoods weigh a controversial zoning proposal that would, for one, allow small apartment buildings near MARTA stations.

Council president Felicia Moore said she recognized the need for more housing units in the city but not near single family homes.

“We need to put it in places other than disrupting single family neighborhood,” she said.

The neighborhoods should be able to choose if they want density, she and council member Antonio Brown both said. The city can’t force that on residents, Brown said.

“We need to recognize that the neighborhoods have a say in how that density comes into their community,” he said.