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Kelly Girtz Releases Affordable Housing Plan

Athens-Clarke County commissioner and mayoral candidate Kelly Girtz released a plan Friday to deal with Athens’ affordable housing problem.

A 2016 study found that middle-income families are leaving Clarke County because they can’t afford to buy a home here. The median home price rose from $153,000 in 2013 to $172,000 in 2015 while incomes did not keep pace.

The website Apartment List reported today that the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Athens has risen 5.3 percent in the past year. 

“Finding affordable housing in Athens is a real challenge for many of us,” Girtz said in a news release. “Some seniors are getting priced out of neighborhoods they’ve lived in for their whole lives. Working people have trouble finding single-family homes they can afford. The good news this is a problem that local government can do something about, and if I’m elected mayor, we’ll make housing more affordable.”

Girtz’s plan includes:

  • A property tax freeze for homeowners 65 and up who make less than the county’s median income, also known as a “circuit breaker.”
  • Spending $15 million in the next SPLOST to reduce housing costs by paying for sidewalks, landscaping, stormwater facilities and road, water and sewer connections if developers agree to sell a portion of new units to low- and middle-income buyers at affordable prices.
  • An inclusionary zoning program that, while Georgia law prohibits governments from requiring affordable units, would encourage affordable housing by offering incentives like density bonuses.

Girtz said that affordable housing could also be part of a tax allocation district aimed at revitalizing run-down corridors, and he also supports tax abatements for home renovations and allowing accessory dwelling (in-law suites or granny flats), which are currently banned under the ACC zoning code.