The Newnan City Council said no to a proposed apartment complex that would have been located on the Newnan Crossing Bypass near Piedmont Newnan Hospital.
The council voted 4-3 at the Tuesday meeting to reject the rezoning of 35.49 acres of land adjacent to the highway to build around 400 “affordable” multi-family housing units, following complaints from members of the community, and following a slight disagreement from members of the Newnan City Council concerning if there was an affordable housing crisis in the city.
Speaking in favor of the apartment complex, attorney George Rosenzweig said the facility would be affordable for those making between $35,000 and $50,000 a year, and would target not only those working in the health care profession, but people that work as police officers, firefighters, first-year teachers and the like.
The apartment complex, which would have been built by and operated by Dominium, a company out of Minnesota, would have had an average rent around 30 percent below the new market rate, and would have been regulated by Section 42 of the Internal Revenue Code, which provided tax credits for investing in “certain low-income housing buildings,” according to the IRS’s website.
According to assistant city manager Hasco Craver, those tax credits are administered by the Georgia Department of Community Affairs and are “competitively awarded to projects across Georgia.” No financing is required from either the city of Newnan or Coweta County.
“These are my children in their first jobs,” Rosenzweig said. “These are people that work and want to live where they work, but they can’t do so.”
A one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment would have cost around $836 a month, Rosenzweig said.
Rosenzweig also argued that, before the March 26 tornado, the city had an affordable vacancy rate of 3 percent in apartment complexes across Newnan.
Rosenzweig also said recently approved multi-family residences in the city of Newnan are out of reach for many working in the city, either because the residences are out of their price range or the residences are age-restricted.
Newnan residents concerned over impact to area
Most residents that spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting were from the Lakeshore subdivision, a subdivision located across the street from where the apartment complex would have been built.
Those residents were all opposed to the proposal, expressing concerns with crime, property values, traffic and the overcrowding of area schools.
“I don’t have an objection with people having a decent place to live,” said Lakeshore resident Howard Smith. “I’ve been here 16 years. Since they opened exit 44 and extended the bypass, traffic’s gotten pretty bad.”
Smith was concerned about the creation of an “apartment row” where the road would be surrounded by multi-family residences.
Another resident, Cathy Marshall, shared a bad experience she had with renters in her neighborhood in expressing her opposition to the apartment complex and was concerned about what sort of criminal element would come to the area because of renters.
“Two doors down from my house, we had a rental in the neighborhood, and they rented through the Atlanta Housing Authority. I don’t know how well we can compare these two situations, but in the eight years I lived two doors down, the people that were brought to live in this house, there was chronic crime, they were selling drugs, everything flocked to the house in those days.”
Marshall said the renters didn’t pay their utility bills so they would use the utilities from other people’s houses.
“I don’t want to stereotype,” she said, “but that’s my experience with people who were living in that house.”
Others expressed a similar concern of what the apartment complex could bring in, while another expressed concern about what impact the apartment complex would have on redistricting students away from their current school due to overcrowding.
Mayor Keith Brady said that the Newnan City Council has no say on how schools are redistricted, and such a decision would be made by the Coweta County Board of Education.
Tracy Dunnavant, planning director with the city of Newnan, said that the Coweta County Board of Education wanted to see a plan in place to see how they could prepare for additional students coming into the school system.
Councilmembers disagree over ‘crisis’ designation
In motioning for the approval of the apartment complex, Councilwoman Cynthia Jenkins said the city is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis, one exacerbated by the EF4 tornado that leveled portions of the city March 26.
Jenkins said the lack of affordable housing would be the top issue with the long-term recovery of the city.
“When we talk about affordable housing, people think Section 8, public housing,” Jenkins said. “That’s not what we’re talking about. They’re targeting hard-working families who don’t make enough to afford the average house price in Coweta County or the average apartment. These are your grocery store workers, bus drivers, police officers. These are the essential workers who we talked about and labeled as heroes in 2020, but we want to vilify them when they want housing.”
Councilman Paul Guillaume disagreed about the housing issue being a “crisis,” but especially disagreed with the idea of individuals being “vilified” over seeking housing.
“Nobody is being vilified here,” Guillaume said. “It’s just a matter of housing projects and what we can do for the community. To use the term ‘crisis’ is a bit extreme.”
Guillaume also said that the term “vilification” implied that the city of Newnan was sending a message that they did not care about those seeking affordable housing, and he said he couldn’t agree with that.