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Felicia Moore, Andre Dickens discuss affordable housing strategies ahead of mayoral runoff

Atlanta mayoral candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens spoke with 11Alive

ATLANTA — Atlanta's mayoral runoff is less than one week away. Before voters head to the polls for a second time this month, candidates Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens spoke with 11Alive to discuss an important topic: affordable housing.

Atlanta City Council President Felicia Moore said that there are some frustrations when it comes to the affordable housing issue shadowing over Atlanta.

“The most frustrating part is people that I know, who want to live in this city, who can’t live here because they can not afford." Moore told 11Alive. "And, I hear their stories of where they tried. It’s really frustrating, particularly our city employees."

"I had one employee tell me, for instance, she’s on call. At any time she may get a call and have to come into the city, and she has to drive 40-50 minutes to get into the city because she can’t live here." Moore continued. "She can’t afford to live here, so that’s a very frustrating thing.”

For all of the frustrations Moore tied to a lack of affordable housing in the area, Moore has already spent two decades on the Atlanta City Council, with nearly four years of council presidency also under her proverbial belt. In that time, Moore said that she has been working to improve the issue for a long time.

“I remember when we were doing the BeltLine, I was very concerned about the speculation of property and the increase in that property," Moore said. "I fought very hard, and successfully we amended our BeltLine to make sure that we had an affordable housing trust fund. Unfortunately, it didn’t get utilized the way that I would have liked to see it. I have certainly spoke out against that."

“Within my district, district nine, that was what I was about. Every development that was built in my district had to have an affordable component, or they had problems from me, the council member," Moore added.

The city council president offered her thoughts on what she believes has caused the implementation of affordable housing to be such a struggle and how she can help long-term residents of the city.

"When you build development in the city and you uplift the community by, for instance, putting in a grocery store, putting in shopping – it sort of has a halo effect that increases the value of property around it and people who want to live there." Moore said. "People who sell property see, ‘If I have a house that’s $200,000, I can maybe build one that’s $400,000.’ The assessed value of property is really important to look at, and people don’t realize that $0.56 of every dollar goes to the school board, $0.23 approximately to the city and the other to the county."

She said she wanted to with other taxing jurisdictions to see if "residents who’ve maybe lived in their homes for 15 years or more, that we can freeze that assessment until they sell their property. That’s one way we can help legacy residents stay in their homes.”

RELATED: Atlanta voters demand results from next mayor on fighting crime in city

Atlanta residents have been promised things before. When asked how residents can be assured that there will be positive change concerning affordable housing, Moore doubled down on her history with the Atlanta City Council.

“Well, people can look at my track record." Moore said. "I don’t say things that I don’t do. And if I find I can’t do them, they know that I will come back to them and let them know. I’m a person of my word. That’s why I’m running for mayor. Essentially, we have a long list of things that we said we are going to do, and we just haven’t gotten to them. I want to get things done."

Andre Dickens, the at-large councilmember running for mayor, also spoke with 11Alive, revealing that there is one issue above most that bothers him: inequity. The council member's plan to combat the crisis includes building or preserving 20,000 units of affordable housing within eight years.

“Inequity keeps me up at night, because I know it is a root cause to another number of other things," Dickens told 11Alive. "Rather that’s poverty, to crime, to also educational outcomes. It just leads to issues where we don’t see each other. This is why certain parts of our community feel divided and separated from one another. So, we have to build or preserve 20,000 units of affordable housing in eight years."

“What disturbs me is that, over the past 12 years, much of that has not been done." Dickens continued. "When I become mayor, I am going to rapidly build new housing at all of the Atlanta Housing Authority sites like Bankhead, Bowen Homes, Inglewood, Herndon Homes and Hollywood Courts."

Dickens said that two things make his agenda to preserve or build 20,000 affordable housing units possible: implementation and execution. He said the city's leader should be hands-on to get the job done. He added that there are more resources available with grants and other funds that can help. 

Andre Dickens has had an eight-year career with the Atlanta City Council. During that time, Dickens said that he largely cemented his legacy by aiding the BeltLine

"What I did was I created this policy called Inclusionary Zoning. That policy requires 10% or 15% of the units that are built along the BeltLine to be set aside for affordable housing."

RELATED: With one week to go, Dickens, Moore in a tight race for mayor: 11Alive poll

“That passed in 2017 and went into law in 2018." Dickens continued. "Since then, in just three years even with the pandemic, we have 800 units of affordable housing built and under construction."

To Dickens, providing affordable housing is only the beginning. It all comes back to solving inequity.

“People are being pushed out and evictions are happening behind our backs." Dickens said. "And so I want Atlanta to be a place that works well for everyone. That’s really my ambition as mayor, to make sure that people can live here.”

He also said he believes giving people higher-paying jobs would help.

"We have to give people mobility, moving up the ladder and giving them skills so they can get high paying jobs. I don’t want to just have people living in low-income or subsidized apartments or housing forever. It’s important for them to be able to move up to $60,000 and $80,000 to be able to provide for themselves."

An exclusive 11Alive SurveyUSA Poll indicates that Felicia Moore and Andre Dickens remain in a "fierce fight" with both having a possible path to victory. The mayoral runoff will take place Nov. 30.