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Spalding County Collaborative Authority for Families and Children

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BOC discusses housing conditions survey

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In order for Griffin stakeholders to develop a plan that will allow the area to compete favorably for investment at regional, state and national levels, a comprehensive housing inventory produced 12 recommendations to bring about positive change.

APD Solutions CEO Vaughn Irons presented the survey’s results to the city’s Board of Commissioners at its Dec. 12 workshop. City officials selected APD Solutions Real Estate Group, a national community economic development consulting firm, to conduct the study.

Commissioners asked Director of Planning and Development Touissant Kirk to implement the recommendations that all felt would positively influence the housing conditions in the city.

“We will be reviewing the information and reporting back to the commissioners,” Kirk said.

Vaughn commended the city on its aggressive model regarding substandard structures and demolition of the same, noting this favorably impacted the number of dilapidated structures in the condition assessment.

While there are any factors underlying the challenges found in the local housing market, Irons said this study hopefully will seek approaches to combat those challenges and recommend action steps to offer a long-term vision for positive change.

Of the 13,641 people employed within Griffin, the study found that 87.4 percent of them live outside the city, with the remaining 12.6 percent living in Griffin.

“With 13,641 jobs and 8,941 households, Griffin has an excellent job/housing balance of 1.53. That is a positive, but the job share is concerning with only 20 percent of the available jobs in the city being filled by citizens. This has an impact on local economic opportunity, which is compounded with wages being low, given the median income of $32,116 in Griffin,” the report states.

The study looked at existing conditions, with the primary intent to factually illustrate the condition of the designated residential properties.

In a study of area residential structure conditions, 6.1 percent were considered to be in excellent condition, 22.3 percent were considered to be in good condition and 44.9 percent were found to be in fair condition.

“From a housing conditions viewpoint, the Griffin/Spalding study area has relatively stable but aging physical housing stock. Overall there is a ‘fair’ general aesthetic appeal with the ‘excellent’ and ‘good’ parcels very concentrated in a handful of neighborhoods,” the study states .

The study also showed 13.4 percent of studied residential structures were considered to be in poor condition, 3.1 percent in dilapidated condition and 2.5 percent were not visible, according to the study.

“Extreme dilapidation was documented at 324 parcels. The locations of these properties are very concentrated in areas of the city closer to former and existing industrial sites. Properties in this category include structures most likely in need of demolition,” the study states.

While the city’s 12.7 percent vacancy rate may not seem startling, most of the vacant lots and poor structures are concentrated within several neighborhoods, many of them comprising a “band” of communities beginning in the northeast and sprawling to the southwestern portion of the city, the study shows.

“These areas not only have higher structural vacancy numbers, but also represent some of the most blighted areas in Griffin,” the study states.

The study’s recommendations include:

— Establish a targeted workforce or employer assisted housing initiative. “Strengthening the challenged neighborhoods must include creating a linkage to current and future job opportunities,” according to the study. “An employer-assisted housing initiative can help employers both enhance their businesses and help the city turn around declining growth numbers.”

— Adopt-a-school partnerships with local businesses. “The city and county should work with the Chamber of Commerce to establish an adopt-a-school program for public schools serving the vulnerable and distressed neighborhood areas to raise the profile of challenges and help erase hurdles to addressing mediocre performance,” the study explains.

— Develop a lease-purpose option. “A lease-purchase option would help capturing families who are ready for home ownership but may need more time to save or work on credit problems,” according to the study.

— Property tax abatement for property improvement and renovation. “The Restoration Tax Abatement model is one of the most accessible incentives for buyers and property managers. The program would have options for commercial properties and owner-occupied residences,” the study recommends.

— Establish a housing trust fund. “It is recommended Griffin go one step further by creating a workforce housing trust fund. This fund would be dedicated to assisting the employees at licensed businesses in the city find affordable and suitable housing options,” the study explains.

— Financing single-family properties for renovation tax credits.

— Create stronger identities for neighboring areas. “As you travel throughout Griffin there are many residential areas that seem to lack clarity regarding neighborhood boundaries and identities. To better define the features and benefits of these residential areas and attract local families to become a part of it, removing confusion regarding neighborhood areas is recommended,” the housing study states.

— Promote infill development, rehabilitation and weatherization. “With the number of vacant lots in Griffin, the advanced age of the city’s housing stock, and limited government resources, creating an environment designed to preserve and renovate existing housing stock should be a priority,” according to the study.

— Concentrate housing dollars and code enforcement in priority areas.

— Establish a vacant property receivership/conservatorship program. “Receivership gives a municipality the authority to temporarily seize the rights of the property owners under a court-appointed directive until such time that the original owner is given permission to move forward with his rights and responsibilities. The owner is further required to complete specified duties and reimburse possible costs incurred during receivership. The Griffin Housing Authority or local non-profits could be identified and trained as a pool of receivers,” the study explains.

— Consider modular construction for new development. “Modular construction will produce housing in a more expedient and cost-effective manner than traditional construction,” the study states.

— Stronger collaboration between community and economic development initiatives.

“The APDS consultant team hopes that the Griffin housing plan will be a new catalyst to restore, rebuild and renew this community,” the study concludes.