The top five candidates in Atlanta’s mayoral race, according to the latest polls, tackled one of the city’s thorniest issues Tuesday night: how to boost Atlanta’s housing supply.
Their answers came during a forum in front of a few hundred real estate professionals at Clark University in Atlanta. It was organized by the Council for Quality Growth, the Atlanta Commercial Board of Realtors and the Atlanta Realtors Association.
Former mayor Kasim Reed, running again for city leadership, said Atlanta’s problems with rising rents and unforgiving traffic could both be solved. He says to start by building on undeveloped land around MARTA stations.
“I think we should be very aggressive – all gas, no brakes – on development around every MARTA stop,” Reed said.
It’s not just MARTA stations, says lawyer Sharon Gay. She says the city has acres and acres of vacant land that can be developed.
“We can accommodate several hundred thousand new residences in these areas without having to do anything in our historic neighborhoods,” she said.
Wherever new housing is being built, current city council president Felicia Moore said Atlanta needs to better prepare for increased growth.
“If we build more housing, we have to make sure we’re able to support it,” Moore said. “With our services, with our police, we need to have firefighters with trucks that can reach these buildings.”
Council member Antonio Brown said no decision on where things are built should be made without the green light from neighborhood planning units.
“The community deserves to have a say,” Brown said. “We have NPUs, the late Maynard Jackson developed the NPU system so neighborhoods can determine what kind of development they see in their communities.”
Andre Dickens says that as mayor, he would rely on a tactic he implemented as a member of the city council: convincing reluctant Atlanta residents to welcome in more neighbors by using incentives to developers.
“I gave people density bonuses in exchange for 10 or 15 percent of units set aside for affordability,” Dickens said.
The candidates also discussed ways to tackle the city’s high rate of violent crime and weighed in on the Atlanta City Council’s decision last week to approve a new police and fire training position at 85. acres of forest land.
Brown stuck by his ‘no’ vote; Dickens explained his “yes” vote. Gay said she supported the new training center; Moore said she would have voted “yes” if there had been a tie among council members. Reed covered, saying he was supportive of the training facility, but was “not yet convinced the location is the best place.”