The Buckhead Community Improvement District and Livable Buckhead plan to study affordable housing in the hope of reducing traffic congestion from commuters who work in Buckhead, but can’t afford to live in the area.
The CID approved at its Jan. 24 board meeting $24,000 in funding to match a possible grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission that the organization hopes to receive, which would be for around $100,000. The study will only move forward if the ARC awards the grant, a decision that will be released in mid-February.
The need to study housing was first suggested in the “Buckhead REdeFINED” master plan that was released last year.
“The master plan called out housing as one of the issues the community should take a look at, specifically housing that’s affordable for the workforce here in Buckhead,” said Jim Durrett, the executive director of the CID.
The study found that most traffic congestion results from Buckhead employees not being able to afford housing in the area. In 2016, 98 percent of Buckhead area employees commuted to Buckhead from outside the area, the master plan found.
“Buckhead REdeFINED put it pretty squarely out there for the first time that the traffic problem is largely resulting from our housing stock,” Denise Starling, the executive director of Livable Buckhead, which spearheaded the master plan, said at the meeting.
Buckhead jobs have grown quicker that the amount of housing, and the housing that has been built is not affordable for a large sector of employees, the master plan found.
The master plan also found that nearly 40 percent of the Buckhead commercial core’s estimated 68,500 employees have average incomes of less $50,000. However, few apartments are affordable for those employees, according to the master plan.
Lynn Rainey, the board attorney, said the study’s transportation focus would allow the CID to tackle such an issue, since the CID’s official mission is to make transportation improvements and it should not go beyond that mission.
“We just need to make sure that we don’t have mission creep, or get pushed or sucked into mission creep,” Rainey said.
Studying the issue of affordable housing from a transportation viewpoint is also less controversial and doesn’t delve into other factors, including race, Starling said.
“This is an interesting way for us to have a conversation around housing in way that’s not so controversial,” she said. “It’s specifically not trying to tackle all of the social ills related to all of the city’s housing issues. It’s not trying to get into a racial conversation or socioeconomic conversations.”
The study would collect data on where employees commute from and to which employers, Starling said.
“What it is going to allow us to do is get very surgical about tackling our traffic issues and also look at housing at the same time,” she said.
Starling expects the study to recommend a variety of possible solutions, including employer assisted housing, zoning changes or working with local banks to create funding mechanisms for affordable housing.
“There’s not going to be a single answer. It’s not going to be that we have to put inclusionary zoning across everywhere. It’s going to be a range of things,” she said.