Atlanta Mayor Dickens unveils partnership to invest $200 million into affordable housing

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the ribbon cutting for the opening of Parkside, a new affordable housing community on the Beltline Westside trail on Wednesday June 1, 2022. (Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Credit: Natrice Miller /

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens speaks at the ribbon cutting for the opening of Parkside, a new affordable housing community on the Beltline Westside trail on Wednesday June 1, 2022. (Natrice Miller /

Atlanta is partnering with a nonprofit philanthropy group for a historic $200 million investment into the city’s plan to build and preserve 20,000 affordable housing units by 2026.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens announced Tuesday that he is working with the City Council to pass a $100 million affordable housing bond. Additionally, the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta recently received a $100 million commitment from the Robert W. Woodruff and Joseph B. Whitehead foundations to fund affordable housing, Dickens said.

The Community Foundation is planning to partner with the city and others to use the funds to create long-term affordability for communities with a high risk for displacement, said Frank Fernandez, the nonprofit’s president.

The foundation’s funds will also support low-cost loans and grants for housing affordability, according to the mayor’s office. In a statement, Fernandez called the public-private partnership’s work “a window of time, particularly in the next three years, to change the trajectory in Atlanta.”

“This is going to be monumental,” Dickens said during his announcement from the Academy Lofts at Adair Park.

Dickens said the city is going to expedite the development of affordable housing on publicly-owned land if the council approves the $100 million bond. He also wants to use the bond to preserve housing affordability where it already exists. The bond could also provide funding for projects already under construction, he said.

Atlanta Councilman Matt Westmoreland introduced the bond ordinance at Monday’s council meeting, where it was co-sponsored by everyone on the council except Mary Norwood, who was absent. Westmoreland told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution there won’t be a tax increase to fund the bond.

Westmoreland said the proposed bond would be on top of the existing $100 million housing bond authorized by the council in 2021. The council will review the terms of the bond and proposed projects in committee meetings later this month.

Atlanta Chief Policy Officer Courtney English told the AJC the city will use existing resources and proceeds from public land deals to cover the bond debt. The city would also repay some of the debt using revenue from new or preserved housing, he said.

Council member Matt Westmoreland shown during a city council meeting on Monday April 17, 2023. (Natrice Miller/

Credit: Natrice Miller /

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Credit: Natrice Miller /

Atlanta’s new housing finance plan comes two years after the council created an affordable housing trust fund, that was supposed to capture 1% of the city’s general fund in its first year, increasing to 2% over three years.

Dickens voted for the trust fund as a councilman, and he went on to make affordable housing a major centerpiece of his mayoral campaign. However, Dickens’ first proposed budget didn’t include money for the fund, drawing criticism from housing advocates. Dickens later added $7 million to the trust fund.

Dickens on Monday announced plans to increase the housing trust fund to $8 million in his proposed budget for fiscal year 2024, which begins July 1. The Atlanta-based nonprofit Center for Civic Innovation tweeted on Monday that the Affordable Housing Trust Fund should be increased to $11 million.

English, the mayor’s senior advisor, replied that additional funding was coming that would exceed the trust fund “by a long shot” -- alluding to Tuesday’s announcement. But Dan Immergluck, a Georgia State University urban studies professor, told the AJC Dickens should still allocate 1.5% of the budget to the trust fund.

“Those are cash, grant dollars and much more valuable per dollar than bond funds which will take the form of loans,” Immergluck said. “Grants enable the sorts of deeply affordable projects that are so desperately needed.”

Immergluck told the AJC the foundation’s funding commitment is good news, and the bonds are needed. But he also said the foundation needs to provide “maximum transparency” on how the money is spent.

Additionally, Immergluck said the city and the foundation need to focus on “deep” affordability for people living below 30% of the metro median income — around $20,250 a year, according to Invest Atlanta. Immergluck said those people are the most vulnerable to displacement, homelessness and unsafe housing as documented in the AJC’s Dangerous Dwellings investigation.

English on Tuesday acknowledged the challenges of creating affordable housing in the city.

“Atlanta has always been a hopeful city, and today we have 200 million more reasons to be hopeful,” English said.