Legislative Hearing on Demolition of Public Housing by the Atlanta Housing Authority


WHAT: Legislative Hearing on Demolition of Public Housing by the Atlanta Housing Authority
WHEN: 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m.,
WHERE: Legislative Office Building, (across from State Capitol on Mitchell St), Rm. 606.

Hosted by State Representative “Able” Mable Thomas.

WHY: This hearing is held to address the Atlanta Housing Authority’s plans calling for the demolition of over 3,000 units of permanent public housing in the City of Atlanta, which will result in the displacement of 9,600 people from their homes and communities.

We are fighting to prevent homelessness, to ensure replacement housing for the current AHA residents, to preserve existing housing for the thousands of Atlantans who are homeless and waiting for housing, and basically for the right to make this process public.

Once again developers are making public policy in Atlanta and taking homes and land from people who have few if any other choices. Minimum wage cannot pay for housing in the private market — an Atlanta worker must earn $14.93 to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the City of Atlanta, according to HUD’s Fair Market Rent formula.

For too long, decisions affecting residents have been made without their knowledge or input. There must be local citizen oversight of the AHA’s plans when it comes to replacing entire communities. AHA has moved their focus from providing for the poor, to creating investment opportunities for developers.

Please come out and support the rights of public housing residents, and the opportunities that public housing has provided for more than 70 years in Atlanta.

BACKGROUND: A recent Georgia Tech study concluded that the City of Atlanta has a deficit of approximately 137,000 units of housing for families with incomes at $40,000 and under, and a deficit of 81,000 units of housing for families with incomes under $22,000. Much of the publicly owned permanent affordable housing, which the AHA now seeks to demolish, is located in areas targeted for redevelopment under the proposed BeltLine initiative, in which it is being proposed that private developers receive public subsidized land transfers and other public subsidies to assist them in financing and building privately owned new mixed use developments.

While the AHA has publicly marketed its relocation plan to the families in public housing and the general public as a “quality of life” initiative that will give the families an opportunity to get out of public housing and move into more affluent and racially diverse communities, the AHA’s relocation plan in fact appears to violate the Federal Fair Housing Act, which prohibits racial steering in housing
opportunities. In Atlanta, housing opportunities accessible by housing rent assistance vouchers are limited primarily to racially segregated neighborhoods (on average having 89% and higher concentrations of African Americans) with high poverty levels.

Historically, landlords in more affluent and white neighborhoods have not been willing to accept housing rent assistance vouchers from African American families. HUD has yet to approve the AHA’s demolition and relocation plans.

Concerned families residing in the targeted public housing communities have repeatedly sought an opportunity to consult meaningfully with the AHA on the development of its demolition and relocation plans. Despite the fact the federal law, 24 USC Section 1437p, requires that the AHA engage in meaningful consultation with the affected families and their representatives, the AHA has withheld critical information from them for more than a year. Recently, the families and their legal representatives obtained draft copies of the AHA’s demolition and relocation plans through their city councilmember, Felicia Moore, who caused oversight hearings to be held on the issue, which, after political maneuverings, resulted in the submission to Ms. Moore of the last three demolition applications just three weeks before the date that it intends to submit them to HUD, on March 10, 2008.

The plans are voluminous, and the families have not had an adequate opportunity to review them. Ironically the draft plans do not address in detail the question of how the AHA will provide replacement housing opportunities consistent with the Fair Housing Act.

During this legislative hearing, affected families and their representatives, and other concerned community groups, will seek to testify on their concerns regarding the AHA’s proposed demolition and relocation plans, with the hope that a state legislative oversight and investigation process might further the goal in addressing and resolving their concerns, which thus far have been largely ignored by the AHA.