Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, is located about 56 miles east of Atlanta, the State's capital and largest city. The city of Athens and surrounding Clarke County have a unified government and, according to the 1990 census, a combined population of 87,594. Athens has the main campus of the University of Georgia, which was established in 1785.
In its "Vision 2004" Consolidated Plan, the Unified Government of Athens-Clarke County describes its housing and community development needs and priorities as well as a 5-year strategy for addressing these needs using Federal and other resources. For the first year of the plan, Athens-Clarke County is requesting $1.7 million in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds and $559,000 in HOME Investment Partnership (HOME) funds. This money will be used to finance the 21 housing, community development, and service activities planned for Fiscal Year 1995-1996.
Public involvement in developing the Athens-Clarke County Vision 2004 Consolidated Plan began on January 24, 1995, with a community meeting to establish overall priorities and objectives for the 5-year strategic plan and the 1-year action plan. Proposed priorities and funding recommendations were incorporated into a draft consolidated plan, which was made available for a public review period from March 22 to April 20. A final draft was completed on April 25 and presented to citizens. The Athens-Clarke County Chief Elected Officer and Commissioners approved the plan at a public hearing on May 2, 1995.
MAP 1 depicts points of interest of the jurisdiction.
The population of Athens-Clarke County was 87,594 in 1990, including 20,280 children aged 18 or under. Of this population, 44,123 persons were in the labor force, with 40,991 being employed. The unemployment rate was 6.4 percent.
Median family income (MFI) for Athens-Clarke County was $30,919, versus a statewide MFI of $33,529. Of the 33,111 households in the county (as of September 1993), 50 percent had annual incomes of 80 percent or less of MFI. Census data show the following levels of low- and moderate-income households:
In 1990 Athens-Clarke County's population was divided into the following racial/ethnic classifications:
Approximately 59 percent of the people living below the poverty level are white, and 40 percent are African American. The lowest income households are found in and around the central business district in five census tracts that are the foci of the county's CDBG community development activities. These areas are distressed communities with insufficient affordable housing, entrenched unemployment, and pervasive poverty.
Single women head a large portion of the households living in poverty. In 1990, 30 percent of female-headed households in the area and 52 percent of female-headed households with children under 18 had annual incomes below the poverty level. About two-thirds of these households were African American.
MAP 2 depicts points of interest and low-moderate income areas.
MAP 3 depicts points of interest,low-moderate income areas, and minority concentration levels.
MAP 4 depicts points of interest,low-moderate income areas, and unemployment levels.
Affordable rental housing must be more accessible to lower income households, and this accessibility can be achieved by providing rental assistance, renovating vacant units to place them back on the market, and constructing low-cost rental housing. Housing needs include the preservation and rehabilitation of existing housing, new construction and redevelopment, and help for lower income homebuyers.
The area's total housing stock in 1990 was 35,971 year-round units. Of the 33,170 occupied units, 18,518 (56 percent) were occupied by renters, and 14,652 (44 percent) were occupied by owners. Most of these units contain two or more bedrooms.
In recent years the general housing market has experienced steady growth. Although a multifamily housing boom in the 1980s produced an oversupply of units, including many duplexes, the supply of affordable units is low. Many units are targeted for college students and are not affordable to very low- and low-income families.
There is also strong demand for single-family homes in the $30,000 to $70,000 range. In March 1995 only 63 detached single-family homes priced below $69,000 appeared on the market, and 22 of these (all under $60,000) were rental properties for sale to investors.
A large proportion of lower income households (both renters and owners) are cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of their gross income for housing expenses, including utilities. Some are severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing expenses.
Of Athens-Clarke County's 5,835 extremely low-income renter households, 76 percent are cost-burdened, while 67 percent are severely cost-burdened. Of 3,274 very low-income renter households, 79 percent are cost-burdened, while 38 percent are severely cost- burdened.
In 1994 there were about 1,579 homeless persons in Athens-Clarke County. Of this figure, 507 individuals, including 354 children, comprised 153 families who were using emergency shelters. More than 95 percent of the adults heading homeless families were women. The remaining 109 youth (17 or younger) and 963 adults (18 or older) were not members of families.
Based upon emergency shelter records, 1,328 persons stayed in homeless shelters countywide, while an estimated 250 individuals were not served by any available shelters. Throughout the county, only 75 emergency shelter beds are available at four shelters, and no transitional housing is available. Furthermore, demand for shelter space sometimes reaches as high as 300 beds.
Subpopulations of the homeless with special needs are as follows:
Existing emergency and transitional shelter space is inadequate. The most crucial need of both sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons is for a continuum of housing types with complementary social services. Future homeless services must provide more than food and a cot. Shelters should have the resources to conduct an immediate assessment to determine what facilities and services the individual or family will need to return to permanent housing.
The Athens Housing Authority owns and manages 1,287 public housing units in 11 projects. These units are generally in very good condition and well maintained. Occupancy rates average near 99 percent.
The Northeast Regional Office of the Georgia Housing and Finance Authority administers the Section 8 rental assistance program for Athens-Clarke County. There are currently 372 Section 8 certificates and vouchers in use countywide.
Another 297 housing units in the county are receiving other types of assistance through HUD programs, such as Section 202 housing for the elderly and Section 221(d)3 below- market interest rate mortgages.
There are a variety of governmental and institutional barriers to developing or preserving affordable housing, such as:
Although residential use of lead-based paint (LBP) use was banned in 1979, use of paints containing lead had already declined somewhat because easier-to-use substitutes were becoming readily available.
Of all housing units in Athens-Clarke County built before 1979, about 24,660 are occupied by low-income families. Of these, 60 percent are renter-occupied. A majority of these units are presumed to pose a potential LBP hazard because they tend to have deteriorating painted surfaces. A strategy addressing this issue needs to be developed.
There are also housing and supportive needs for the elderly, the mentally disabled, the mentally ill, the physically disabled, substance abusers, and victims of domestic violence. In general the needs of each group are similar in terms of affordable and accessible housing but differ somewhat in the mix of appropriate supportive services.
The county's nonhomeless special needs population requiring supportive housing includes:
Sewer upgrades are the primary infrastructure improvements needed in Athens-Clarke County.
Public service needs include: employment training, transportation for senior citizens, substance abuse and youth services, and supportive activities for the handicapped. A new community health facility and expanded health care services are also needed.
Extensive economic development needs include rehabilitation of commercial
buildings and their surrounding infrastructure, as well as loan funds and
technical assistance for small businesses.
The citizens of Athens-Clarke County have established four visions to serve as guidelines for the Vision 2004 Consolidated Plan. They are:
Athens-Clarke County's affordable housing and homelessness priorities include:
Economic development objectives include:
Physical development objectives include:
The Consolidated Plan's four visions, or priorities, focus on the family, while providing opportunities for low-income persons to escape poverty. Possible programs include formal education, job training, and case management services. Economic development in particular has an antipoverty element, because new or expanding businesses create jobs. Rehabilitation and construction programs also link jobs and projects by providing short-term job opportunities for residents with construction experience.
The financial resources to implement the 5-year plan include $2.3 million in CDBG and HOME grants that will be received in 1995. Athens-Clarke County anticipates that similar levels of HUD community development and housing funds will be available during the remaining 4 years of the 5-year plan. Other funding available to help the county implement its strategic plan includes a variety of Federal and State programs.
Athens-Clarke County also relies on numerous organizational resources that contribute positively to community development efforts. These resources include: the University of Georgia and its Institute of Community and Area Development, Small Business Development Center, and Housing Research Center. Several nonprofit and for-profit social service agencies and providers, as well as local and regional business and industrial groups are actively involved in improving the county's economic and social conditions.
Athens-Clarke County has a fairly extensive institutional structure for implementing its housing and community development activities. To improve coordination between these institutions, the Department of Housing and Economic Development will provide the leadership needed to establish Vision 2004 advisory committees that will cover the four above-mentioned areas: housing, economic development, human services, and physical development. The advisory groups will review accomplishments and new findings related to their areas of interest and will recommend actions needed to achieve the goals of the Vision 2004 plan. The county will also conduct an ongoing dialogue to improve coordination of services.
MAP 5 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 6 is a map, sectioned by neighborhood, which depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects.
MAP 7 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within one of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 8 depicts points of interest, low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded projects within another of the four neighborhoods indicated in MAP 6.
MAP 9 depicts points of interest,
low-moderate income areas, unemployment levels, and proposed HUD funded
project(s) from a street level vantage point as well as provides a table
with information about the project(s).
For the 1995-1996 program year, Athens-Clarke County plans to use $2.4 million in CDBG and HOME moneys, as well as program income, for 21 activities.
Housing activities will receive $716,488, including:
Homeless shelters will receive $200,000 for renovation and expansion of the Salvation Army facility and $20,000 for the Strong Day shelter for male substance abusers.
Public facility and infrastructure projects will receive $683,600, including:
Public and human services activities will receive $660,550, including:
Most projects included in this year's Action Plan will occur at sites in targeted lower income neighborhoods. The locations of many rehabilitation projects have not yet been determined, and some ongoing programs, such as the Rape Crisis Center, will provide citywide assistance.
Housing activities included in this year's Action Plan are expected to rehabilitate or improve 147 housing units. Projections estimate that other planned activities will benefit 13,300 persons, including 404 elderly persons and 610 youths.