Crime. Drugs. Impossible traffic. Build a housing project with 80 affordable units in Centerville, residents say, and that’s the sort of trouble that’s ahead.
“People have told me they will move out if it comes to pass because there would be a lot of drug use,” resident Geraldine Parker said Thursday. “People coming in those low income units, I'm sorry, but they do bring in drugs. ... And if there are low income families, usually there will be kids, and the library is next door, and librarians will become babysitters.”
Simply put: “I don't think it will be safe,” she said.
City Councilman Ed Armijo told The Telegraph he worried about “the amount of people that would have to live there and the traffic situation. … It's a small road, and it's congested already.”
Zimmerman Properties, based in Springfield, Missouri, plans to build the complex north of Gunn Road, adjacent to the Centerville Branch Library and near Margie Drive, according to information provided to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs.
The complex would be about 107,000 square feet — almost 2 ½ times the size of the new Publix in Bonaire.
It would be near homes in the affluent Eagle Springs subdivision, where properties listed for sale range from $139,900 to $450,000.
Several of the people speaking out against the project during a recent City Council meeting echoed the issue with traffic, but some had other problems, too, such as the height of the buildings, how close it would be to adjacent homeowners and that it would make an ongoing flooding issue worse.
Zimmerman is seeking low-income housing tax credit funding through the DCA to build the apartments, and it has applied to the agency for nearly $1 million in funds. The DCA is expected to make a decision this fall on which applications it will approve.
Several attempts this week to reach executives with Zimmerman were unsuccessful. The company has been the general contractor on more than 50 properties during the past decade using the tax credit program, according to its website.
Since the property is already zoned to allow the multi-family project, the developer does not need City Council approval to build it. Zimmerman executives made presentations at recent City Council meetings to address some of the issues and concerns of the council and residents.
Tab Bullard, vice president of development for the southeast region for Zimmerman, said the company feels it's bringing an asset to the community, not something that would bring problems.
"(The company) is not building subsidized housing in the area but affordable housing, and there is a difference," he said, according to the May 15 meeting minutes. "This type of development targets renters that are making $9-$10 an hour — not targeting subsidized rentals."
City Council may consider making changes to its zoning laws “to have better control of our zoning” regulations, Mayor John Harley said Friday. “But it will be in the future, not right now.”
Affordable housing is not Section 8 housing
There is huge difference between affordable housing and the old Section 8 housing subsidies, said Bruce Gerwig, former president of In-Fill Housing Inc, the nonprofit arm of the Macon Housing Authority.
"There has been no new federally funded Section 8 housing in 20 to 25 years," said Gerwig, who retired in fall 2016.
Renters of affordable housing have to provide proof of income, and "the housing is affordable for people making less than 60 percent of the area median income," he said.
The low-income tax credit program is administered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury through the Internal Revenue Service, he said.
"It's tax credits, so the IRS writes the rules, and each state has an agency that administers the program," he said. In Georgia it's the DCA.
Gerwig has been involved with the development of more than 1,400 units of affordable housing in 17 developments, 12 of which were in Bibb County. All are "up and running and occupied."
He takes issue with claims that affordable housing attracts crime and drugs.
"If they do, no one has told me about it," he said. "I would have heard something after 40 years. ... I'm sorry they feel that way, but no neighborhood is immune to (crime). And the mere fact that there is going to be an affordable housing development is not going to equate to a rise in crime and drugs."