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For The Record: December 16

 

By Atlanta Documenters 

Reporting by Ada Wood, Johnny Kauffman, Meggan Kaiser, Jessica Ingram, Nicki Cooper, Jill Alikonis, and Stefany Sanders

 

 

December 16, 2022

 Atlanta Documenters

BIG PICTURE

Clayton County races to distribute rent assistance

Last month, Clayton County had to disburse $6.5 million in funds for emergency rental assistance by the end of the year. If they don’t, the county will have to return the money to the federal government. 

These Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) funds were provided to assist households that are unable to pay rent or utilities through the American Rescue Plan Act, a measure passed by Congress in 2021 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, residents in the county are seeking out this help. One landlord in attendance at last month’s Clayton County Board of Commissioners meeting (documented by Johnny Kauffman) shared with Commissioner vice chair Gail Hambrick that they had tenants who had trouble accessing the assistance.

“I just hope that we get this money out. It’s just something that does not sit right with me to send back dollars that could be used for our citizens,” Hambrick said.

Clayton isn’t the only county struggling to disburse funding to tenants and landlords in need. Cobb has also struggled with paying tenants directly and applicants having difficulty proving “a Covid-related hardship.”

As for why Clayton County is experiencing these difficulties, staffer Dennis Johnson said that the county partnered with several nonprofits that ultimately didn’t have the capacity to disburse the money. Clayton is currently working with nonprofits Melanated Pearl, Project Real Life, and the Clayton County Community Service Authority to disburse the funds by December 29.

As for how much of this is left to distribute with only two weeks remaining?

“We are working to finish auditing the events over the past few days to determine the remaining funds that are available,” Valerie Fuller, communications administrator for the board of commissioners, tells Canopy Atlanta.

“The funds are being distributed as fast as applications can be processed,” Fuller adds. Most recently, she says, over 1,000 new applications were processed over three days at Morrow Center.

Hear from residents of Forest Park, Clayton County who responded to our listening work last summer: 

“Rent has gone up a lot. You used to be able to rent a two-bedroom house for $400-600. Now a one-bedroom starts at $700—and if it is very nice it is $1,000.”

“Investment companies are buying up homes in the area, which is worrisome since the poverty rate is high and economic level is low in the area. If rent goes up, it won’t benefit the people who are currently a part of the community.” 

MEETINGS AROUND THE METRO

DOCUMENTER NOTES: read here

WATCH THE MEETING: watch here

 

Residents spoke on a proposed earlier curfew for teens in the wake of two fatal shootings of children near Atlantic Station weeks ago. “It’s another quick fix . . . that doesn’t speak to the systemic issue of violence in our communities,” said Devin Barrington-Ward of Black Futurists Group. 

The curfew, introduced by Councilmember Keisha Waites (At-Large) and currently with the Public Safety committee, would make it illegal for children 16 and under to be unaccompanied in public places after 8 p.m. on weekdays or after 9 p.m. on weekends. Victor Tate, pastor of First Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, asked council members to engage more with parents before instituting a curfew.

GET INVOLVED: Atlanta City Council next meets on Tuesday, January 3 at 1 p.m.

DOCUMENTER NOTES: read here
WATCH THE MEETING: watch here

 

A property management group is pushing back against a new rental property inspection program to address unsafe housing conditions. 

The program, launched in August, aims to take the burden off of tenants, who must complain to code enforcement in order to get their landlords to make needed repairs. The new program proactively requires self-inspections, and occasionally sends an officer, to ensure that residents live in healthy conditions.

One management group representative told the city council that the new law places undue financial burden on landlords, which would trickle down to tenants through rent increases. He also questioned the legality of the ordinance and asked council instead to improve the current code enforcement process. If not, “collectively, this group has significant resources to fund” a fight in court.

GET INVOLVED: Forest Park City Council next meets on Tuesday, January 3 at 6 p.m.

DOCUMENTER NOTES: Nov. 15, Nov. 29, Dec. 5
WATCH THE MEETING: Nov. 15, Nov. 29, Dec. 5

 

Atlanta City Council is updating an ordinance protecting Atlanta’s shrinking tree canopy.

The current Tree Protection Ordinance (TPO) hasn’t been updated since 2001, despite concerns being raised since at least 2014. Last week, after much debate—about how extensive updates should be, and whether the city should instead prioritize economic development or affordable housing—an ordinance to amend and update the TPO, 22-O-1829, was finally passed. Some of the updates change factors around planting trees near parking lots and streets to help better shade areas and reduce the heat that streets absorb.

But this is only the beginning: Phase two of these discussions starts early 2023—and is where more nuanced conversations will begin, says Janide Sidifall, Deputy Commissioner for the Department of City Planning.

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MORE COVERAGE

 

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“If any lesson was learned from the east side, we know that the BeltLine is beachfront [property] in the city, and so if we can control the land, we can ensure equitable development.”

— Dennis Richards, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., Vice President, Housing Policy and Development 

IN CONTEXT: This quote comes from an 11/16 meeting of the BeltLine Affordable Housing Advisory Board (BAHAB). Atlanta BeltLine Inc. wasn’t always interested in buying land. But the board is shifting their strategy, in hopes of better promoting long-term affordability along the trail. In this case, Richards speaks to the board about buying properties for sale, especially vacant properties in markets where the BeltLine isn’t completed yet—and therefore wouldn’t ratchet up prices, including on the south, west, and north sides of Atlanta. Documented by Jill Alikonis and Stefany Sanders.

DOCUMENTER SPOTLIGHT

NAME: Nadia Carlson

NEIGHBORHOOD: Pittsburgh/Adair Park

MEETINGS COVERED: I found the work of the Atlanta Citizen Review Board to be particularly interesting. In the meeting I attended, the group had a dynamic dialogue about how they can ensure they’re holding city police accountable, while having an unbiased review process. The board just unveiled a new online portal to file a complaint online, which should help increase the number of complaints people are able to file by reducing the amount of time it takes to file.

WHY DOCUMENT? I like attending public meetings to stay informed. When I lived in Austin, I sat on the bicycle committee for the city. I see a lot of value in the public communicating directly with those making decisions and influencing change in our city. It’s sad when you go to a public meeting that has no attendees. I think the voices of big companies and corporations are so much louder, because they can pay people to be involved in local politics or send someone to attend committee meetings. A lot of times, it’s hard to get involved when things do not feel urgent because we all have busy lives. But if we all see it as our civic duty to stay engaged, I think we can make a stronger, more inclusive city for all. 

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