Affordable Housing Impact Statements

Affordable Housing Impact Statements is a model ordinance first proposed in its current form by SMART ALEC CEO Matthew Charles Cardinale when he was a law student at Gonzaga University in 2014.

This model added a Quantative Scorecard feature that must be completed by local governments for any proposed legislation:

This legislation, if enacted, is estimated to have a projected impact upon the affordable housing stock of the ______________ over the 30 year period following the enactment of the legislation by:

Adding _____, preserving _____, or decreasing _____ units affordable at 30 percent or below of the Area Median Income (AMI); and

Adding _____, preserving _____, or decreasing _____ units affordable between 30.01 and 50 percent of AMI; and

Adding _____, preserving _____, or decreasing _____ units affordable between 50.01 and 80 percent of AMI; and

Adding _____, preserving _____, or decreasing _____ units affordable above 80 percent of AMI.

The guiding principle of AHIS is that government decisions affect the affordability of housing.

The objective of AHIS policies is to provide good information to decisionmakers and stakeholders at the time the decision is made, regarding how those proposed government actions would have an estimated impact on the affordable housing stock of the jurisdiction.

Most jurisdictions are grappling to provide substantive policy solutions to address apparent affordable housing shortages, without having sufficient data to fully understanding their affordable housing needs.  AHIS policies, like Affordable Housing Inventory policies, are about empowering decisionmakers and stakeholders with good information.

Like the well-known Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) policies that have been promulgated under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970, AHIS policies seem to only be as good as decisionmakers and stakeholders are willing to use them as a tool to have conversation about policy decisions.  In Atlanta, while the Office of Housing has continued to produce AHIS statements for several years, the City Council has done little to consider the statements in their decisions.  Therefore, from this experience, our current recommendation is to legislatively require consideration of the AHIS.

Historically, San Diego, California, and Austin, Texas, had used AHIS policies to help guide their decisions.  Austin’s ordinance empowers the city manager to reject proposals on the basis of the information contained in an AHIS.

Atlanta City Councilman Andre Dickens (Post 3-at-large) introduced the ordinance drafted by Cardinale in 2014, containing the Quantitative Scorecard; and it passed the City Council in 2015, taking effect in 2016.

Several other jurisdictions have considered or adopted AHIS since that time, including New Orleans, Louisiana, which adopted a model based on the Atlanta ordinance in 2017; Portland, Oregon, which administratively adopted AHIS in 2016; and Brookhaven, Georgia, which has administratively adopted AHIS in consideration of at least one development project.

SMART ALEC was initially formed with a goal of assisting other local governments with adopting AHIS ordinances containing a quantitative scorecard, but has since expanded to work on dozens of policies in the areas of Affordable Housing, Democracy, and the Environment.

Atlanta’s ordinance is codified as Sec. 54-2 “Affordable Housing Impact Statements,” within the City of Atlanta Code of Ordinances, Part II (General Ordinances), Chapter 54 (Community Development).

The first ordinance creating Atlanta’s AHIS policy was 14-O-1614, adopted on November 25, 2015, effective July 01, 2016.

SMART ALEC created a report in late 2017, reviewing the first one and a half years of implementation of Atlanta’s AHIS ordinance:

Following this report, Atlanta adopted a second ordinance amending the City’s AHIS policy: 18-O-1026, adopted February 14, 2018.  SMART ALEC drafted the amendment, which was introduced by Chairwoman Natalyn Archibong of the Community Development/Human Services Committee and significantly amended by the Law Department of the City of Atlanta.

SMART ALEC has identified several issues in the current Atlanta ordinance, and is recommending another round of changes.