Seminar reviews multiple approaches to affordable housing issue – – Champion
The availability of housing that is both affordable and in good condition was a common need identified by stakeholders, particularly for low- and moderate-income households, in the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s most recent Out of Reach report.
Much is being done to address the issue in DeKalb County, according to DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, who recently hosted the second seminar in the District 7 affordable housing series titled “Developing Affordable Housing In DeKalb: What To Expect.”
Described as “a hybrid event,” the seminar included information on financing for affordable housing; incentives and resources; purchasing land and buildings for renovation; partnering with the DeKalb Housing Authority, and the permitting process. The seminar provided faith-based and community organizations with information designed to help them support projects aimed at creating more affordable housing in the area.
As to the need for more local affordable housing, especially for low- to moderate-income families, the numbers tell the story, according to presenters who offered the following information: within DeKalb County’s 772, 470 residents, there are 45,000 on the affordable housing waiting list. There has been a 21 percent increase in rental rates in the past year and a 20 percent increase in property values during the same time period. In the past 12 weeks alone, median sales prices for housing have increased 5.97 percent.
Seminar officials also noted that 51 percent of residential properties south of Memorial Drive are sold to private equity firms. Because private equity real estate investments are costlier and riskier than many other investments, investors look for greater returns, according to Investopedia. The result is higher prices when the property is rented or sold.
Incentives and resources for affordable housing development were discussed by presenter Dorian DeBarr, president of Decide DeKalb, the county’s development authority. “The goal of economic development is to improve the wellbeing of our community through efforts that lead to job creation, job retention, tax base enhancement and improvements in the quality of life for DeKalb County residents,” he explained.
Programs are currently in place in DeKalb County to provide financial incentives for builders to erect housing within the reach of low- and moderate-income families, according to seminar presenters.
Allen Mitchell, director of DeKalb County’s Community Development department, reviewed his department’s role in the creation of affordable housing, noting that it is involved in permitting in such areas as land disturbance and building, as well as tracking and inspection of the completed project.
The seminar offered step-by-step information on the county’s “user friendly” permitting process that takes the builder from application through inspection.
There also was a summary of the Bond for Title program available to qualifying new businesses and expansions of existing businesses. Under the program, Decide DeKalb provides an incentive schedule based on project investment for projects that demonstrate economic development benefits to the county.
Those attending or viewing the seminar also saw a report of DeKalb County’s Neighborhood Stabilization program 2019 through 2021. “The impact on home buyers and renters has been tremendously positive as individuals are paying less for affordable housing, appraised values have risen, neighborhoods have seen positive change and more buyers are experiencing the American Dream,” the report states. “The impact on county neighborhoods has been broad and pervasive from a real estate perspective. Fewer vacant and abandoned homes in various communities result in increased property values.”
Also discussed was the Tax Allocation District program. Through it, bonds may be issued that are a special limited obligation of the Development Authority and do not involve either the school district or the municipality. Revenue bonds in amounts based on projections of future tax revenue are sold “to finance desired improvements or offer incentives for growth,” according to material presented at the seminar.
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