The Atlanta City Council recently approved of a measure to divert funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to go to housing incentives for first responders so they can live in the communities they serve.
According to city officials, $500,000 from the federal aid package will go the Atlanta Police Foundation to pay for housing for firefighters and police officers.
The plan was unanimously approved by councilmembers a month after it was proposed by Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.
The Atlanta Police Foundation will distribute the money with help from the Atlanta Apartment Association to subsidize housing for first responders so they can live in the community they work in.
Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi lauded the effort as a way COVID-19 relief dollars could be used to address pandemic-caused crime.
“I think this is appropriate because it makes for stronger neighborhoods and a more safe city,” he said. “If we can have our firefighters and police officers living in the city, it helps them better understand the fabric of the neighborhoods they work in and builds relationships that I think benefit us all.
The housing incentive is just one of several plans introduced by the mayor to support first responders and combat crime in the city with federal aid money.
Other plans include offering retention bonuses and other financial incentives for police officers.
In addition, the Atlanta Police Foundation is also leading the project to build a $90 million-dollar training centerfor Atlanta police and firefighters.
The foundation contributed two-thirds of the funds for the project.
Farokhi said the housing incentive program is a one-time deal, but if the plan is successful, the council would consider using general fund dollars to continue it.
“We hear from officers and firefighters all the time, particularly younger ones, that they want to live in the city but they feel priced out,” Farokhi said. “And that’s even when we’ve been increasing salaries of fire and police to be market leaders in the metro area.”
Farokhi added that the city has been working on the program with the foundation for almost a year.
“We’ve been working on this housing program for almost a year and a half now and the Police Foundation was the entity that was best able to administer this for both fire, police and corrections, in partnership with the land Apartment Association,” he said. “It could have been any number of nonprofits — we felt they were best placed to do this with our public safety departments.”