City DopeNews

Commission Approves Affordable Housing Policy

The Athens-Clarke County Commission approved a policy last week offering incentives to multi-family developers who build affordable housing.

Known as inclusionary zoning, the policy grants density bonuses and eases parking requirements for developers who set aside a certain number of units for low-income residents. The density bonuses are on a sliding scale based on the property’s zoning and the level of income. Parking could be reduced by 20%. And in the downtown zone, developers would be able to build less ground-floor commercial space, replacing it with more lucrative apartments.

“I am eager to see this implemented,” Commissioner Melissa Link said. “I think this is, quite honestly, something we should have drafted up eight or 10 years ago. We lost a lot of opportunities in this student housing boom to get some affordable housing.”

Link also called on the University of Georgia to build more student housing, blaming much of the spike in housing prices on UGA’s ever-increasing enrollment. She also asked Mayor Kelly Girtz to appoint a committee to explore density in single-family zones. Girtz said the Inclusionary Housing Working Group—which includes commissioners Mariah Parker and Tim Denson, planning commissioners Alice Kinman and Matt Hall, Athens Housing Authority Executive Director Rick Parker and Athens Land Trust Executive Director Heather Benham—will be working on that issue.

The meeting clocked in at just an hour, and the inclusionary zoning vote was a rare show of unity for a commission that has often been at loggerheads lately, culminating when three commissioners—Mike Hamby, Allison Wright and Ovita Thornton—expressed a preference for a new district map that ousted progressive colleagues Link, Russell Edwards and Tim Denson.

“There may be other initiatives, but this is the one that rises to the top, that’s something that brings us together,” Thornton said. “This, to me, is what progressive looks like.”