Atlanta Becomes First Municipality in Georgia to Pass Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance

Housing developers will henceforth be required to include a percentage of all newly developed rentals units in specified areas of Atlanta as affordable to low income households after the passage of an inclusionary zoning ordinance. The City Council passed the new ordinance on November 20, making Atlanta the first city in Georgia to pass an inclusionary zoning law. The ordinance will be a central feature of a new “Workforce Housing Policy” announced by Mayor Kasim Reed (D) and the city’s economic development authority on December 1.  There are concerns, however, that the new law will be challenged in court due to a statewide ban on rent control laws. Statewide bans on rent control have nullified local inclusionary zoning successes in many other states. Georgia Advancing Communities Together (ACT), an NLIHC state coalition partner, played a key role in advancing this proposal through their involvement in the City for All Affordable Housing coalition (CFA).

Atlanta’s version of inclusionary zoning only covers developments in a portion of the city. Specifically, the law covers all new developments within one half-mile of the BeltLine path, a 22-mile long transit loop around the city and also covers new housing developments near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the new home field for the Atlanta Falcons. Data suggest that rents are rising in these areas much more rapidly than in the rest of the city.

Under the new law, developments in these areas must make 10% of all new units affordable to households at 60% of area median income (AMI) or provide 15% of all new units as affordable to households at 80% of AMI. The ordinance does allow developers to pay an “in-lieu” fee through which the affordable housing obligation is met by paying for development at a different location by another entity. A separate City Council action on November 20 established a housing trust fund that will receive and reallocate all revenues from these fees.

William McFarland, relationship manager for Georgia ACT, celebrated the enactment of the new policy. “Georgia ACT is a proud member of City for All, a coalition of housing advocates who have been pushing for inclusionary zoning in Atlanta for several years,” said Mr. McFarland. “As a part of CFA, we will continue to work on education and advocacy with the new administration and City Council to cement Atlanta’s commitment to provide diversity in its housing stock for residents of all income levels around the BeltLine and Westside and to expand it city-wide.”

For more information about inclusionary zoning in Atlanta, contact William McFarland, relationship manager at Georgia ACT, at: wmcfarland@georgiaact.org