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New Mayor and New Plans. What can we expect in the next four years?

Atlanta mayoral candidate Keisha Lance Bottoms greets a supporter after she spoke briefly during her election watch party at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Tuesday, November 7, 2017, in Atlanta. PHOTO / JASON GETZ, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION

Keisha Lance Bottoms emerged as victor over Mary Norwood in an intense – and stretched – political battle for mayor of Atlanta last month. With her new position as the head of the city, she has promised to lay the foundation for various social programs to help increase the opportunities of minorities and low-income individuals throughout the city. She calls this plan All Rise, because she believes that Atlantans will be able to rise up to the occasion of growing Atlanta.

One issue that the new mayor said she would resolve is the issue of affordable housing and homelessness within the city.

“Atlanta is actually booming economically, but there is a lot of concern that lower-income people are being priced out of Atlanta,” said Georgia State professor Douglas Teper, as to why affordable housing got so much attention during the elections.

Many students live off campus and in the past it has been difficult for them to find affordable housing.

“You’ve got a real income disparity in Atlanta. You’ve got either really wealthy well-to-do folks, and you’ve got lower income folks especially when it comes to rent. When you talk to students, it gets pricier and pricier. People are building houses and rental units, but they’re on the high side,” said Teper. He said that the city can play a role in the creation of affordable housing, such as Section 8, by offering better incentives for contractors and landlords to create and allow it. This would allow some Georgia State students the opportunity to be able to afford to live off campus.

During her swearing, Bottoms said she plans to adopt a $1 billion initiative that combines money from both the public and private sectors to create affordable housing and stop displacement.

“I introduced Displacement Free Zone legislation to the City and now, in the Vine City/English Avenue neighborhood, funding to help homeowners offset higher property taxes is available. It also provides grants for home improvements. I will expand this type of fund throughout Atlanta as Mayor,” Bottoms said during her swearing in.

Displacement Free Zones help to combat gentrification, which is one cause of a lack of affordable housing.

Atlanta Beltline, Inc., an advocate for affordable housing in Atlanta, has worked to provide housing for those who may not be able to obtain it, and they said they are willing to work with the new mayor on this issue.

“We will be working with Mayor Bottoms and the city’s housing agencies, including the Atlanta Housing Authority and Invest Atlanta, to ensure that proposed funds will be used to impact all parts of the Atlanta, including the Atlanta BeltLine Overlay District,” said Brian McGowan, President and CEO of Atlanta Beltline.

LGBT in ATL

Another mayoral goal is to expand upon LGBT rights in Atlanta and to create more opportunities for individuals within the community. According to her campaign promises, her goals are to consult with various leaders of the LGBT community and their organizations within the next year. According to Executive Director of Georgia Equality Jeff Graham, in order to keep those promises to the the LGBT community, one piece of legislation that the mayor must help adopt is a “statewide comprehensive and inclusive civil rights and non- discriminatory law that includes members of the LGBT community.”

Bottoms must “make sure there are strong housing programs for homeless LGBT youth and older homeless LGBT individuals” living in Atlanta, Graham said.

In the past few years there has been federal funding for HIV testing and screening programs was not properly distributed to the LGBT community by the city and state, according to Graham. He hopes that a new mayor will bring about a more efficient and positive change.

Traffic has always been a major issue for Atlanta and students who are commuters at Georgia State. Mayor Bottoms has said in the past that she plans to improve traffic, but it is still unclear what exactly will be done to combat it.

“There’s constantly a debate about supporting greater mass transit as in light rail or buses or extending the MARTA system or connections on a regional basis with other counties,” said Teper.

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