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Atlanta Aims for Affordable Housing for Responders

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the city could better deal with crime by providing affordable homes to police and other first responders, and taking more care with the distribution of housing vouchers.

During a roundtable forum Thursday on crime in Atlanta, Reed said he wants to turn foreclosed homes into inexpensive housing for first responders. Reed said he was working with "one of the largest banks in America" to make it affordable for police and firefighters to live in the city, and that an announcement was forthcoming. He did not identify the bank.

"You could move a city of Atlanta firefighters into almost any neighborhood in the city through the foreclosure initiative that we're going to have," he said, adding the move could "significantly" deter crime in those areas. "We have foreclosures in every kind of neighborhood in the city," Reed said. "I think we'll have a more attractive program than we had in the past when you were trying to get an officer to move their family into a neighborhood that is clearly challenged."

Under the coming program, Reed said, "We're going to know where the houses are, and [this bank is] prepared to ... sell them at significantly reduced prices, and make them available to police officers at significantly reduced prices."

As another method to curtail crime, Reed said he wants the city to better manage the spread of housing voucher recipients to well-established communities. Reed said he believes that the federal Section 8 program that uses housing vouchers is destabilizing some of Atlanta's storied neighborhoods.

"If you go to Benjamin Mays, Spreading Oak and Springdale ... streets that were some of the most stable streets in the city of Atlanta are now rampant with housing vouchers," Reed said.

"When you put people with vouchers in a neighborhood of homeowners without significant follow-up for those individuals, it has a destabilizing effect," he said. He specifically said he had no plan to curtail the use of housing vouchers, which are issued through the Atlanta Housing Authority.

"I think we need to be more thoughtful about where people who receive vouchers live," Reed said. "Not to discriminate against them, but to make sure that no community bears more than its share of the burden."

Reed joined Georgia NAACP executive director Edward Dubose, Atlanta Journal-Constitution senior managing editor/vice president of news James Mallory and Kiss 104 FM and WSB radio reporter Veronica Waters to discuss what things the city was doing to change the perception that Atlanta is not a safe place to live and work.

The hourlong roundtable will air at 7 p.m. Monday on radio stations owned by the AJC's parent company, Cox Media Group: AM 750 and 95.5FM News/Talk WSB, and Kiss 104 FM.

Copyright 2011 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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