Many cities and counties, including Atlanta, devote the largest proportion of their residentially zoned property to single-family, detached dwellings. HUD does not have statutory authority to change zoning, but Carson said the agency can work with local governments to loosen zoning.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson spoke at a July 23, 2019, conference in Atlanta on affordable housing where this “little house” was on display. Bob Andres / email@example.com
In June, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms unveiled a citywide affordable housing plan. The $1 billion plan — half of which she has pledged will come from private sources — proposes using existing public dollars and land as an incentive to attract private sector investment, as well as changes in zoning.
Bottoms’ plan also calls for expediting redevelopment of vacant and blighted properties and the creation of a housing innovation lab. But the proposal when announced did not include legislation.
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The Atlanta Housing Authority, mired in leadership and litigation struggles, largely has been sidelined from new affordable housing development for the past decade.
Carson said Atlanta created a national model for mixed-income housing development in the 1990s, pointing to the East Lake community, a former housing project that’s now a celebrated mixed-income community with a high-performing charter school system.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson during an interview with an AJC reporter on July 23, 2019, in Atlanta. He spoke at a conference in Atlanta on affordable housing. Bob Andres / firstname.lastname@example.org
“Can it be done in Atlanta? Atlanta is one of the best examples,” Carson said. “They’ve fallen away, but there’s no reason they can’t come back.”
Dan Immergluck, an affordable housing expert and a professor at the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University, said the last three administrations also attempted to remove regulatory burdens to promote affordable housing with limited results.
“This regulatory approach is nothing new,” he said.
One approach Carson is taking to regulation, a rewriting of a federal housing rule known as “disparate impact,” could limit HUD’s ability to influence local zoning, Immergluck said.
U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson spoke at a July 23, 2019, conference in Atlanta on affordable housing where this “tiny house” was on display. Bob Andres / email@example.com
An Obama-era “disparate impact” rule banned discrimination even when the language of a policy is neutral. Such a rule can be used to challenge zoning if it disproportionately affects minorities, Immergluck said.
“If they can show zoning has disproportionate impact to protected classes, they can, and in places they have, argued disparate impact on people of color,” Immergluck said.
Carson said the proposed new rule, which could be released soon, is intended to relieve a bottleneck that has slowed new development of affordable housing.