I've been trying, over the past five years, to educate the Mayor and Commission about tiny houses as one option for creating affordable housing in Athens-Clarke County. I've attended countless meetings over those five years and have learned quite a lot about how decisions regarding development in ACC takes place. I'm still naive about a lot of things, but I do know that ACC has needed additional affordable housing for decades. Yet we still sorely need more, as the Workforce Housing Study reported in 2016.
I've learned that officials want to make some of the main corridors in and out of ACC more visually appealing so drivers coming into Athens will see a welcoming and attractive city. I suggested that tiny house villages could do just that, since they could include not only the well built and maintained houses but some green space, a community garden with trails, creative landscaping and other features. But they don't seem to want to act on that idea, although nothing else is being done to otherwise improve those corridors.
They've stated that incentives could be offered to developers who'd take on the job of creating a tiny house community, but apparently none have stepped forward to take them up on that deal. So sweeten those incentives to be more attractive. When asked, one commissioner told me that no developers want to work on creating a tiny house village because it wouldn't be financially viable for them. So look elsewhere for a developer who would find it financially viable, even outside of Georgia. There have been numerous tiny house communities developed across the country, so someone knows how to create them. I did an online search, and there's a company called Tiny House Developers who are located in Arizona, but who could possibly come to Athens to consult with the Planning Commission, the Mayor and Commission and whoever else is involved in making decisions about housing in ACC.
In the 2018 Comprehensive Plan (pages 26-32) there are some statements about housing and land use that include the fact that ACC funds should be used to provide housing for the citizens of ACC. Doesn't that include Athens Land Trust? If that's not their bailiwick, then who does have that responsibility?
It just frustrates me that the Mayor and Commission (and whoever else) are focusing on a variety of other goals from the comp plan except affordable housing. Not to lessen the appeal of other community improvements such as transportation, education, health care and others, if there's not affordable housing then many citizens of ACC won't be able to afford to live in ACC and take advantage of those privileges. Putting roofs over people's heads seems like the first step that should be made before all else. But that's just me… oh, wait..it's not! A lot of people are being affected by the rising cost of living in Athens. Long-time Athens residents are being priced out of their homes, and that should concern the public servants we voted for, the people who should have our best interests at heart, not the best interests of developers who only want to build high-rise student housing (ruining downtown Athens) and/or McMansion neighborhoods. Many of those developers don't even live here and don't give a hoot about anything other than lining their pockets at the expense of the Athens workforce.
Athens is being turned into a Snellville, a city of strip malls and franchise stores and housing only the wealthy can afford. The Athens that used to be was a funky, diversified, charming college town with a strong community of musicians and artists. Not anymore. But there's still time to learn from previous mistakes and to prevent further ones before it gets much worse.