Feb 2, 2023 - News

Leaders consider housing subsidy for police, firefighters

Illustration of a police badge door knocker on a door.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

Atlanta leaders are considering a plan that would help some of its public safety personnel to live in the same city where they work.

Why it matters: Most rank-and-file public safety personnel in Atlanta don't make enough money to afford rent or mortgage payments in the city.

  • "We hear all the time from firefighters and police officers that they want to live in the city, but they're priced out," City Council member Amir Farokhi, the lead sponsor of the legislation, told Axios.

Driving the news: There's a proposal on the table to donate up to $500,000 of American Rescue Plan funds to the Atlanta Police Foundation.

  • The foundation and the Atlanta Apartment Association would administer the subsidy to help police, fire and corrections officers reside in the city.

What they're saying: Farokhi told Axios that he hopes the program can also make Atlanta's police, fire and corrections departments more attractive to applicants "at a time when rental and housing costs have increased significantly."

  • "It makes us better able to retain the folks that we spend a lot of time training, and it makes the total compensation and benefits package more attractive as well," he said, adding that it would allow officers to become more attuned to neighborhood and city dynamics.

How it works: The current legislation, which has to be vetted by the Council's Finance Executive Committee, calls for officers to live within their assigned zones, and for firefighters and corrections officers to reside close to the stations or facilities where they work.

  • Farokhi told Axios that the city is working on how much of a subsidy each employee would receive under the agreement.

Of note: The city last year opened an apartment building where 30 police recruits live while they complete training.

Zoom out: Subsidizing housing for public safety employees has been done in at least two other jurisdictions in metro Atlanta: Sandy Springs and East Point.

The city of Sandy Springs in 2017 started a pilot program in which it rented a home it purchased on Hammond Drive to one of its police officers. Since then, seven homes on Hammond Drive are being rented out to officers, said spokesperson Andrew Allison.

  • Tenants pay the city $500 per month to live in the home. If the house needs any renovations before an employee moves in, the city caps the project at $10,000.
  • Allison told Axios that any SSPD officer or firefighter can "put their name in the hat," and the city randomly chooses the lucky recipient.

In 2021, the city of East Point entered into a partnership to set aside eight apartment units where its officers and firefighters can live rent-free.

What we're watching: Farokhi said the legislation should come to the full City Council for a vote later this month.


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