Georgia Department of Community Affairs addresses affordable housing needs across state
Two years ago, following the passage of unprecedented emergency funding from the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Treasury announced a nation-wide program to provide emergency rental assistance for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the following months, each state stood up programs to assist renters and landlords facing financial hardship during the pandemic. Through Georgia Rental Assistance, the Department of Community Affairs has disbursed nearly $1 billion in rental and utility assistance. To date, more than 56,500 Georgian families in all 159 counties have benefited from this help.
Nationwide, more than 500 emergency rental assistance programs were set up in a short amount of time. Georgia deployed more funding than 95 percent of these programs; however, Georgia Rental Assistance is limited by its allocation from Congress. The department’s dedicated team has processed more than 186,600 applications from across the state. Few applications initially satisfied the federal government’s detailed program requirements. For example, each application requires documentation from multiple parties, outreach and follow up with each involved party, and adherence to all federal rules and guidelines. Execution of this first-of-its-kind program has presented challenges, and the Department of Community Affairs responded by instituting continuous process and system improvements while managing both a significant volume of applications and daily disbursements.
Housing instability was a persistent issue prior to the pandemic. In the months leading up to the pandemic, there were tens of thousands of evictions filings in the metro Atlanta area alone according to Atlanta Regional Commission’s Eviction Tracker. Evictions are handled by local judicial authorities, and the number of filings has not eclipsed pre-pandemic levels in the years since the pandemic began, despite the deleterious impact of rent inflation.
Few would expect one-time, emergency rental assistance to resolve pre-pandemic housing issues.
To address longer-term issues, the Department of Community Affairs will continue to finance the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing units. The department has financed more than 39,000 of these units since 2018. These include privately developed, for-rent, multifamily properties intended to ensure safe and affordable housing for seniors and families who contribute to the fabric of Georgia’s workforce and communities. Through the Georgia Dream program, the department will continue to assist first-time homebuyers achieve the dream of homeownership, just like the over 6,300 who have been helped over the last five years. Through this agency, the state leverages federal funding to assist community-based initiatives to address homelessness and other housing-related needs.
Housing affordability is a fundamental and complex issue. Solutions must entail a variety of private and community-led efforts. Those funded entirely with public monies are prone to budgetary constraints and regulatory processes. Where a public policy interest exists – such as the expansion and preservation of safe, affordable housing – public-private partnerships are more effective at achieving long-lasting objectives. The Department of Community Affairs will continue to steward public resources effectively to address housing needs, particularly for those Georgians earning below the median local area income.