Savannah mayor announces creation of affordable housing taskforce

Savannah mayor announces creation of affordable housing taskforce

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Mayor Van Johnson has announced the creation of the Housing Savannah taskforce.

The mayor made the announcement during a news conference Thursday morning at 10 a.m. at City Hall. Rewatch the announcement below:

City of Savannah

#Watch: Mayor Van Johnson announces the creation of the Housing Savannah taskforce:

Posted by WTOC-TV on Thursday, July 30, 2020

The city of Savannah says the group will guide the development of an affordable housing policy for the city to ensure those living here have budget-friendly options for permanent housing.

"We want all Savannahians to have the opportunity to live in quality, affordable homes in our City," Mayor Johnson said. "Neighborhoods are the cornerstone of the community in Savannah. A new policy to make home renting and ownership more cost-effective will provide stability for individuals and families, and in turn, strengthen our community."

Housing is a priority for the Savannah City Council, and the council has already taken steps to make housing more attainable for all Savannahians. On Thursday, July 23, council members approved the former Code Compliance Department building on Drayton Street as surplus property and hope to build mixed-use housing at the site in the future.

“In this instance, literally, it was opportunity arising from the ashes. So the City’s issuing an RFP that will heavily discount the value of the property in exchange for housing that becomes affordable,” said City Manager Pat Monahan.

The City and Metropolitan Planning Commission are also looking for public feedback on the future use at several other City surplus property sites.

This latest task force brings together more than a dozen concerned citizens, all experts in the area of housing, from banking and real estate, to the Homeless Authority. Affordable or workforce housing, not to be confused with low-income housing, is housing that costs no more than 30-percent of the gross household income to rent or buy.

That’s what this group of community leaders, selected by the Mayor and Council for their expertise in the field of housing, will look to create more of in the coming days and weeks.

“I think we can agree as a community everybody deserves a home. Everybody deserves the opportunity to have a roof over their head. And if we’re blessed to be able to have that roof, we want to be able to do that for everybody,” said Mayor Johnson.

Finding more funding for Savannah’s affordable housing fund will be one goal for the new task force, one Savannah’s Housing Director believes they’ll achieve.

“One of the things they can do is find substantially more money for that fund. The City’s been putting in about $150,000 a year. And my staff had been raising about another 80-thousand dollars a year from private entities, a couple hospitals in town and other groups. But we need to get that fund up to a couple million dollars a year,” said Martin Fretty, Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services.

The Affordable Housing Taskforce will be co-chaired by United Way of the Coastal Empire President and CEO Brynn Grant and former Savannah assistant city manager Israel Small. The City is also looking at using surplus property for affordable housing sites.

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