NLIHC state coalition partner Georgia State Trade Association of Nonprofit Developers (G-STAND) recently participated in completion of a landmark policy report on accessible housing in Georgia, stemming from terms of a 2008 lawsuit regarding non-compliance of the Fair Housing Act. G-STAND is a member of the Atlanta metropolitan area fair housing coalition, organized by Metro Fair Housing Services, Inc. and dedicated to addressing the need for housing among people with disabilities.
Metro Fair Housing Services, Inc. and the National Fair Housing Alliance, along with other parties across the country, filed suit against one of the nation’s largest housing developers after an investigation was launched into the firm’s design and construction practices. The investigation discovered that A.G. Spanos Companies built thousands of multifamily units in 12 states, including Georgia, that were inaccessible for people with disabilities and thus out of compliance with the Fair Housing Act’s requirements.
A settlement, reached in January 2010, called for a $12 million renovation of 13,200 inaccessible housing units in 41 developments, a policy report on housing needs of people with disabilities, and establishment of national and local accessibility funds to further increase access to housing for the growing number of Americans with disabilities.
The policy report required by the settlement was written in consultation with more than 30 organizations, including G-STAND, and released this past August. The report illustrates the state of fair housing across the country with a specific focus on the housing needs of Georgians with disabilities. The report shows that 1.2 million Georgians, 14.3% of the state’s population, live with some form of disability and are not institutionalized. A large majority of this population has incomes at or below the poverty line and cannot afford housing at the fair market rent.
Additionally, the report notes that a growing segment of the state’s population is elderly. The aging of the state’s population is expected to increase the number of Georgians living with temporary or permanent disabilities. In the Atlanta metropolitan region alone, the number of individuals age 65 or older grew by 44% between 2000 and 2010, increasing the demand for housing that addresses the needs of individuals with disabilities. The report includes several recommendations, such as state legislation allowing jurisdictions to create local housing trust funds.
The State of Georgia settled a suit last year with the U.S. Department of Justice regarding the state’s failure to serve individuals with developmental disabilities. As part of the settlement, the state agreed to provide supportive housing to 9,000 individuals with serious and persistent mental illness in need of such support.
G-STAND plans to use the policy report and the settlement agreement as leverage to encourage policymakers to establish regional housing trust funds. “The state currently does not have sufficient resources to meet the housing needs of disabled Georgians and the funds raised by regional housing trust funds would go a long way in meeting this and other local housing needs,” says Kate Little, President and CEO of G-STAND.
In previous years, housing advocates have urged legislators not to subject an existing state housing trust fund to the legislature’s appropriations process, but the state’s constitution prevents the development of a dedicated revenue source. As a work-around and “to help establish more consistent sources of revenue for the development of affordable housing, we are now pushing our elected officials to consider regional housing trust funds that would be created through a multi-jurisdictional agreement, allow local governments optional participation, and secure a dedicated revenue source. A dedicated revenue source might include an increase in real estate transfer taxes or an increase in mortgage recording taxes,” says Ms. Little.
G-STAND launched its Housing Agenda for Georgia’s Affordable Housing Industry during the 10th Annual Affordable Housing Conference on October 25, specifically calling for regional housing trust funds. “Our members are committed providers and advocates who understand what is at stake for low income residents and people with disabilities in Georgia, and they are preparing to educate their elected officials to make an impact on housing needs in the state,” says Ms. Little.
Sheila Crowley, NLIHC President and CEO, gave the keynote address at the October 25 conference.