Box 5, Folder 11, Document 73

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February 7, 1968

An Analysis of Atlanta's Low-income Housing Program
and Proposed Procedures for Its Improvement

Although the most recent report (copy attached) of the Housing Resources
Committee on the status of the Low-income Housing Program shows good progress
to date, the cream has already been skimmed from the initial potential and
prospects for the future of the program look extremely dim.

This analysis is lengthy but is justified by the gravity of the current
situation and the necessity for adequately explaining each of the features
proposed herein.

There is no need to dwell here on the major problem areas involved such
as neighborhood objections, zoning, Federal policy, funding, etc., as we all
are quite familiar with them. The resulting effect however is very disturbing.

Substantial land promoters, developers, and builders on whom we must rely
for actual developments are losing interest in the program and are directing
their major efforts elsewhere and in other fields not involved with the diffi-
culties encountered locally in attempted production of low-income housing.
Without their continued active participation it will be extremely difficult to
meet the already established goals for the program (and it now appears that even
these goals may not be adequate). |

Our policy to date has been to follow prevailing established procedures by
depending on the land promoters and developers to select the sites, take options
on the land, attempt to get it rezoned if required. and then develop the site.
This procedure places the anpine initiative on private enterprise and leaves in
their hands primary responsibility for overcoming neighborhood objections and
political resistance. This is good, if it works, but frequently it does not
work. This also habitually places the City in a vulnerable defensive and embar-
rassing position, if the efforts of private enterprise do not succeed, and
discourages other developers. This is happenine entirely too often for continuation

of a healthy progressive program which is sorely needed in Atlanta.

Instance after instance can be cited where the above has occurred. Some of
the more prominent specific cases which have suffered or failed under this policy
are: Browntown, Butler Street YMCA, Sewell Road, Browns Mill Road, Empire Drive,
Golfview, Wilson Mill Road, East Lake #2 and Wellswood Apartments sites. (The
last one was considered under the leasing program.)

In fact, most of the 8,266 units proposed, which did not materialize (see
Note A of Low-income Housing Inventory Report of January 15) can be attributed to
strong objections from one or more groups under our current private enterprise
sponsored, hit or miss, development procedure.

The availability of land, one of the critical elements, which can be obtained
at prices developers can afford to pay and still make a profit from their venture,
is rapidly becoming a vital issue within the City limits of Atianta. This factor
alone is primarily responsible for the lack of current development in single family
sales housing for’low and moderate income families, although there is a great
demand and substantial market for this category of housing in Atlanta.

The rapid growth of the City and phenomenal rate of new construction is fast
limiting the desirable sites on which low-income housing can be located in Atlanta,
from both an economic and public relations standpoint.

It is evident that in the past the procedure of letting nature take its course
by depending entirely on private enterprise to initiate proposed locations for low-
income housing and then carry the ball on obtaining the necessary approvals and
zoning changes, is not adequate to insure success of the Low-income Housing Program.
This is particularly true of Turnkey sites for Public Housing.

A few specific examples clearly illustrate this:

(a) Attempted rezoning of the Browntown site for 50 units under the
Turnkey program has been delayed until July 1, 1968 for further consideration at
that time as to positive provisions for the timely construction of essential
community facilities, one of which is an Elementary School to be built on the
project to serve it and another anticipated low-income housing project in the same
general area. In anticipation of the rezoning it was understood that the School
Department would place this school in top priority on its proposed bond issue for
the Spring of 1968. However, since the rezoning last fall did not go through when
expected and has been definitely delayed until at least July 1968, the School
Department has now changed its priorities so as to accommodate those projects which

are already definitely approved, under construction or where plans for early


development are actually progressing satisfactorily. This change in the School
Department's position is justified and understandable. However, as far as this
particular school is concerned, it does not bring the Browntown site any nearer
to fruition. It is also likely that plans for improved sewer facilities for
this area will not have as high priority as would have been the case, if the
proposed zoning had already been approved.

(bo) A similar situation also applies to the Butler Street YMCA site
on Hollywood Road in the same general area and which is equally dependent on
the proposed Elementary School discussed above and improved sewer facilities.

(c) The Sewell Road project is a typical example of an excellently
planned and designed Turnkey project for Public Housing which was well located
and adequately isolated and screened, but which went "by the board" as a result
of pressure of public opinion from the neighborhood.

(d) Another instance is the requested rezoning for a proposed 221 d (3)
project on an excellent site on Wilson Mill Road, immediately across from a
developed City park, and where other adequate community facilities exist. It
received an adverse recommendation from the Planning Board, supported by a
recommendation of the Planning staff, because of anticipated objection from
residents of the neighborhood,

(e) One well known out of town developer, highly recommended by FHA,
after having to give up three proposed developments in DeKalb County because of
DeKalb's lapse of its Workable Program, subsequently filed applications with FHA
for three substantial projects in Atlanta under the 221 d (3) program. All three
applications were later withdrawn. It is understood that two were withdrawn because
of neighborhood resentment, which he experienced early, and anticipated rezoning
difficulties. The third proposed project, for which the site was already zoned
appropriately, was given up primarily because of high land costs and partially
because of anticipated neighborhood resentment, plus economic problems encountered
in trying to design and dévelop a creditable project which would overcome the other

The foregoing. are typical illustrations why previous used and long established

procedure is not working adequately for the Low-income Housing Program.

The success of this program is as important to the future well being of

Atlanta as the School, Sewer, Traffic, or Parks programs and should be approached
with the same considerate deliberation and coordinated planning as has been found

necessary and which is currently being pursued in other City programse


After careful consideration of the foregoing factors and based on experience
with low-income housing in Atlanta for several years, it appears that some new
procedures are practical and would be helpful. However, dillizent effort will
continue to be made under the current procedure, until it is changed.

Recommend that the following additional procedures be adopted as soon as

1. Written recommendation from the Mayor to the local Director of FHA that
the maximum limits for FHA mortgage insurance under the 221 d (2) program in the
Atlanta area be increased from the current $12,500 to $15,000, to compensate for
increased cost of land and construction since the present ceiling was established
several years ago.

(This should provide additional flexibility and incentive to builders to
construct and market single family sales housing in Atlanta under the 221 d (2)
program. Activity in this field has been quite dormant since the Low-income
Housing Program started. It is one of the most needed categories, for which there
is a strong demand and adequate market. Home ownership should be encouraged when-
ever possible, as it is one of the most stabilizing factors for low and moderate
income families).

2. To supplement the above, adopt an additional Single Family Dwelling Zoning
District in Atlanta, to permit erection of dwellings having a minimum of 720 square
feet floor area, on minimum size lots of 5,000 square feet and with minimum frontzgaze
of 50'. Similar proposals have been previously made to the Administrative Assistant
and to the Director of Planning.

(This would permit an increase of 50% in current density of the 221 variety
house for which the currently applicable R-5 zoning district requires 7,500 square
feet of lot area, 810 square feet minimum floor area and a minimum frontgaze of 60'.
This additional zoning district would provide ample land area for houses in this
category and in the price range of the 221 d (2) program). .

3. Request HUD to modify its current FHA policy by permitting mortgaze
insurance under its FHA 221 insured mortgage program in areas which do not now have
certified Workable Programs, when such developments will serve to alleviate
unsatisfactory and overcrowded housing conditions in areas such as Atlanta which do
have certified Workable Programs in effect.

(Although the purpose of the current restrictive Federal policy in those areas

was well intentioned and expected to serve as an.incentive to those areas to establish

Workable Programs, the actual results have boomeranged by excluding construction
under this type financing from neighboring areas (which incidentally are apparently
desirous of having it excluded) and thereby placing increased low-income housing
burdens on communities, such as Atlanta, which do have Workable Programs).

4. Modify the current Zoning Ordinance to permit structural changes in
non-conforming residential dwellings in other zoning districts, when necessary in
order to meet requirements of the Housing Code.

(This is not permitted noe and serves to perpetuate unsatisfactory and sub-
standard housing conditions in many areas of the City, which in the past have
been prematurely zoned for uses other than residential and which will probably
continue to be so used for the foreseeable future. In many of these areas improvement
is stagnating because of the fact that existing residential buildings cannot be
structurally altered and if demolished another can not be built in its place, plus
the past difficulty of obtaining financing in these areas for housing improvements,
due partially to the zoning restrictions, and of the problem of private enterprise
in assembling tracts in these areas of sufficient size and price to justify sub-
stantial development).

5. As a companion measure to the above, eliminate from the Housing Code
Enforcement Map and Policy and Procedure Guide all so called "Clearance - Code
Enforcement" Area classification and place all of these areas in top priority for
strict Housing Code Enforcement on a house~by-house basis, except where formal
application has been submitted for a Federal assisted project for the area oie ORR
Planned development is eminent.

( Although some modification was made during 1967 in Housing Code Enforcement
policy, the current policy in these areas of which there are many in the City, for
practical purposes is still essentially one of containment, in that Code imforce-
ment in these areas consists of:

(a) Placard where warranted and seek demolition

(b) Correct hazzards

(c) Reduce overcrowding

(d) Vacate unfit units

(e) Clean up premises
Under existing policy, there is no specific requirement or priority in these areas,
which contain much of the worst housing in the City, for bringing all dwelling units

into strict compliance with the Housing Code.)

(Furthermore, the theory of clearing such areas through Housing Code Enforce-
ment is a fallacy and is a long drawn out, impracticable as well as unprofitable
procedure, in that the Housing Code is not, and never was intended to be, a punitive
or clearance weapon, but rather a tool to encourage, improvement and with which to
maintain good standard housing conditions throughout the entire City. The so called
"“CGlearance-Code Enforcement" areas are extremely difficult to operate in and have
been generally neglected in interest of obtaining more é@nsitences da less difficult
areas where violations are less serious and compliance is much easier to obtain.
Early improvement of substandard conditions in existing housing in these worst areas
would materially relieve the long range burden on the Housing Resources Committee
of providing adequate new standard units for many low-income families, for which the
existing housing in many instances in these areas could be made adequate.)

(The financial burden or even hardship, on the owners ‘of these properties for
bringing them in to compliance with the Housing Code would be no greater than it
is now and has been in other areas of the City, where the Code is being strictly
enforced on a house-by-house basis. )

6. Modify existing local building codes to permit erection of prefab
residential construction, to incluae preassembled plumbing, electrical, and heat
facilities, when it has been. determined that the materials and workmanship are
satisfactory and can be inspected during assembly at the factory.

(The application of assembly line procedures and techniques to mass production
of low-income housing is as essential today as the assembly line procedure has been
to the automobile, major electrical appliances, prefabricated kitchen cabinets and
other similar products, if we are going to meet the current day's needs in low-income
housing. )

7. Encourage prompt formation of a Non-profit Housing Development Corporation,
having a city-wide scope of operation, to assist development of low-income housing.
Such a corporation could provide much needed seed money on a loan basis to local
neighborhood non-profit sponsors; bank land for future low-income housing projects;
and lend technical and other assistance in promotion of low-income housing
developments. |

(The formation of such a corporation is well under way through the efforts
of the Finance and Non-profit Funds Panel of the Housing Resources Committee.

This corporation is much needed in Atlanta now. A revolving fund in the neighborhood

of 1-1's million dollars could probably be procured through loans of perhaps ten
year duration from Private Enterprise at low interest rates, with principal re-
payable as available. This money would serve to finance activities of the
Corporation on a revolving basis, in a manner similar to procedure which is being
successfully used in Hartford, Connecticut and several other cities.)

8. And almost last but not least, recommend that suitable sites be carefully
selected jointly by the Housing Resources Committee and the Planning Department,
in all four geographical quadrants of the City (not necessarily: equal distribution)
sufficient in number and size to bring the current Low-income Housing Program up
to 20,000 units; that each of these sites be earmarked for Public Housing under
the Turnkey or conventional program, housing under the FHA 221 insured mortgage
program or conventionally financed similar priced construction; and that special
effort be made to rezone these sites simultaneously in one packaze; with the help
of wide-spread, wéll placed and carefully selected public support and on the
condition that low-income housing will eventually be constructed on these sites
when adequate community facilities will be available. The plan should include
several areas for a reasonable number of single family sales houses.

(It is believed that this approach can be successful, if careful attention is
given to selecting sites which will serve the intended purpose, but which are most
likely to be the least controversial (omitting those which are obviously Likely to
arouse strong community resentment). This procedure has recently been resorted to
in New Orleans for Public Housing, after site selection by private enterprise failed.
This would spread the locations and not concentrate the bulk of such housing on two
or three sites which are likely to be particularly controversial, and on which it
would not be wise to concentrate large numbers of low-income families, even if
appropriate zoning could be obtained.)

(There are sufficient sites in the former category. Many of these sites, if
appropriately developed, would excellently serve the needs of low-income families
and at the same time would’ materially improve the areas involved. In several
instances these are areas in which low-income families already reside and will
probably continue to do so for a long time, but in which current densities can be
increased and the environment improved.)

(Still, other areas to be considered should be those located where nice well
planned low-income jidusing developments would improve the area, should promote a
minimum of criticism from the residents of the community and locations that are

not likely to be developed in the near future for better or higher use.

In some instances however, this will require modification of current policies and
thinking of some planners as to zoning classifications for such locations, by
permitting a mixture of uses in the general areas involved rather than continuation
of all single family Residential or all Industrial or Commercial as the case may be.)
9. When the proposed rezoning of suggested sites is accomplished, then
concentrate on coordination of all Departments and Agencies involved in planning
for the propcsed developments to provide necessary Community facilities simultaneously
with scheduled development of the low-income housing. This is possible and offers
the best opportunity for getting what is needed in the nature of Community Facilities
at the time it is needed to serve the proposed developments. Two good examples of
where such coordination efforts have recently worked successfully are:
(a) The arrangements made for extension of Cleveland Avenue to serve the
proposed Golfview development project; and
(b) The cousmontise recently worked out satisfactorily between the
developers and the Water Pollution Control Division for sewer service at an
extremely early date for the proposed Bankhead Highway Turnkey project.

10. In order to speed up development on land in Urban Renewal projects sold to
developers, recommend that the period allowed between award on bids and beginning of
actual construction be reduced from the current permissive time of one year. It
appears that 6-9 months should be ample.

(Examples of disturbing delay are the Ebenezer Baptist Church project and, to
a somewhat lesser degree, the Rockdale project; whereas planning for the Friendship
Baptist Church project is much further along, which illustrates that others could do

All of the above explained procedures are believed to be feasible and if adopted
should insure completion of the established goals in the Low-income Housing Program
within the time alloted and with a minimum of difficulty and disagreement between

those involved in accomplishing the Program.

Encl: Report ~ Status of Accelerated Low-income Housing Program, dated Jan. 15, 1968
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