Affordable Housing: Continuing the Conversation

by special contributor

By Cynthia Lippert, President, Atlanta Realtors Association

The year 2020 saw unprecedented challenges, not only for our industry, but for our civilization. One of the most widely felt impacts of the pandemic was on our concept of home. Suddenly, home took on new meaning. Our dwellings themselves took on new roles, as living rooms became Zoom conference rooms and dining room tables became school desks. Home improvement supply chains hummed as so-called pandemic projects trended. And as interest rates plummeted to record lows, buyers masked up and braved bidding wars to find quarantine-worthy homes. But for some Atlantans, home, and specifically home ownership, felt like an elusive dream slipping even further out of reach as inventory levels quickly dwindled under the strain of the seller’s market.

Shortages of affordable and equitable housing in our metro area, and in our country, may have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but certainly aren’t unique to it. And some noteworthy organizations have risen to the challenge in recent years. For example, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) has made substantial headway with programs like down payment assistance and neighborhood stabilization initiatives, which help veterans and low-income buyers. But even these programs face challenges in a competitive market like the one we’ve experienced in recent years.

Solving this problem is obviously a complex undertaking, but its importance to our industry and communities can’t be overstated. The task before us at the Atlanta Realtors Association is simply to create a space amid our top priorities for this conversation to continue productively until we find a solution. That may take some time, and it will certainly take considerable work.

As stewards of the home ownership dream, we need to advocate for more seats at the home ownership table, and we’ll do that through creative solutions that enhance education and bolster funding.

We can begin by fostering a better understanding of existing programs within our Realtor community to improve implementation and help ensure positive outcomes. Realtors are in a truly unique position to help educate the communities they serve on the benefits of home ownership, not just for individuals, but for greater economic results. Part of our mission is to protect property rights for consumers, and we can broaden our scope of advocacy by making home ownership achievable for more people.

In addition to education and advocacy, we need to put our collective braintrust to work on assistance programs that are innovative enough to garner private sector funding, as well as help prospective homeowners overcome the challenges of competitive markets and scarce inventory.

While the task of alleviating the affordable and equitable housing shortage in our city is certainly a mammoth one, it’s one that has huge ties to the economic health of our city and its residents, especially those who are overdue to take their seat at the home ownership table. The pandemic has put a spotlight on this issue, and we’re in a position, surrounded by the best and brightest minds in our industry, to open the channels that will lead to solving it.

For more information on ANDP and its programs, please visit www.andpi.org.

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