SOPOS Newsletter – Spring 2016webmaster
Members of the SOPOS Coalition have been busy this past quarter. If we have left anything out that you were involved in, please let us know about it for use in future newsletters!
Home Access Funding – Many groups have been advocating for years for the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to reinstate funds for home modifications that enable people to stay in their own homes instead of be institutionalized. In the 2016 legislative session, the Governor recommended -and the legislature approved- restoring $224,902 toward our request of $500,000.
Promoting Visitability with Developers – In March we held a luncheon and conducted a tour of East Lake Commons for DeKalb developer Carlos Arenas and his partner, both of Eikon Properties. They are developing a TOD (Transit Oriented Development) by the Kensington MARTA station in DeKalb County and members of SOPOS urged them to construct the single family and townhouse components to a visitable standard like East Lake Commons. They were so impressed by this model community that they wanted to find a unit there for Carlos’ mother and replicate it elsewhere!
Inclusionary Ordinance in City of Atlanta – In May we joined forces with other affordable housing advocates in metro Atlanta to protect the existing goal in the City’s strategic plan of housing set asides in new, multi-family developments for people at lower income levels. Shelly Simmons and Marty Collier testified on behalf of the SILC of Ga and SOPOS Coalition respectively. Because of this advocacy, the city of Atlanta’s new affordable housing ordinance will require developers receiving support from Invest Atlanta to produce a set-aside of ten percent of the units affordable at sixty percent of the Area Median Income (around $690 or less per month) or fifteen percent of units at 80 percent AMI. These rents will not be as low as we urged, but they will be lower than what City officials set out to establish.
Reviewed enforcement of Visitability Ordinance in the City of Atlanta – In a community forum and via several emails and phone calls, contact was made with the new Director of the City of Atlanta Office of Housing, Valerie Fontaine Bernardo. Valerie said she was familiar with the ordinance. She had recently briefed her staff on it to ensure compliance and stated that the City continues to require that permits of new construction involving government funds must be checked for this. She did indicate, however, that because of the economic situation, few single family permits involving government funds come before them nowadays. They are funding more home rehabs, so we discussed the use of the renovation tool to ensure basic access in these if the topography does not prevent, and we have provided her office with the tool.
Housing Day at the Capitol – We joined other housing and community development groups from around the state for an event, convened by SOPOS Coalition member Georgia ACT, to educate elected representatives and stake-holders about current housing affordability issues and opportunities being considered at the legislature. Over a hundred people attended the event at Central Presbyterian Church, hosted their representatives for lunch, and went to the Capitol to talk personally with them.
National Housing Trust Fund – Later this year, Georgia will receive $3,314,612 from the national allocation for this fund. This source is statutorily set to be used for housing to benefit people making 30% or less of area median income (AMI). SOPOS participated on both national and state level conference calls to understand the criteria and uses the funds are designed to address. We participated in a joint advocacy effort to establish program priorities that ensure the resulting housing will have basic access features and be integrated into the community. This will need to be monitored in the next stage of funding allocation and implementation.
Presentations to GICH teams (Georgia Initiative for Community Housing) – In February we traveled to Dublin to make a presentation on the visitability concept in housing to participants of the GICH retreat. The Georgia Initiative for Community Housing helps communities improve their quality of life and economic vitality through the development of locally based housing and revitalization strategies. It is an initiative of the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA), the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), the University of Georgia (UGA) Housing and Demographics, Research Center, and the UGA Office of the Vice President of Public Service and Outreach. The program has embraced visitability and we hope to present the concept to each new team of communities that go through the program. In Dublin, we presented with representatives from Disability Connections (located in Macon). As a result of that presentation, we were also invited to present to the GICH team in Douglasville.
Co-Sponsor for Fair Housing Training conducted by State ADA Coordinator’s Office – SOPOS Coalition was a co-sponsor of this training on the Fair Housing Law, which covered the treatment of people with disabilities as well as construction requirements for accessibility included in the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act. The training was well done and well attended, sparking lively discussions and questions at times. Discussions are underway about the possibility of replicating this in other parts of the state.
SOPOS represented at annual policy forum of National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) in DC –This included participating in a statewide coalitions gathering, obtaining valuable information about how the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing mandate of the Obama Administration will be carried out, and visits to the Hill to impress upon elected representatives the urgency of expanding funds to make affordable, accessible and integrated housing more available.
Meeting held with various members of SOPOS Coalition – This involved discussions about how to coordinate efforts to support the Coalition’s objectives, such as with representatives of Metro Fair Housing Services, the Atlanta Regional Commission, Concrete Change, the Board of the SILC of GA, Georgia ACT, different Centers for Independent Living, and Georgia Tech.
Finalized SOPOS Coalition brochure – Please let us know if you want copies to help recruit and educate others.
Researched and documented examples of visitable townhouses – We have collected photos we are using for educational presentations. These are being shared with developers, planners and others to encourage more barrier-free construction.
The SOPOS Coalition is a multi-disciplinary group that grew out of the publication of the SOPOS Report, “Shut Out, Priced Out and Segregated: The Need for Fair Housing for People with Disabilities.”