WUGA and Athens Area Habitat for Humanity hosted a panel discussion at the Athens-Clare County Library recently. The “Housing Code Hack” was the result of that partnership. Panelist Representative Spencer Frye is executive director of Habitat.
“Let’s go one step beyond just a low-cost housing forum,” Frye said. “Let’s create an opportunity to have a public discussion with real specific policies that we can change in Athens-Clarke County in order to increase the availability of the housing stock.”
Those taking part in the conversation, which was recorded in front of a live audience, included mayor Kelly Girtz, Commissioner Ovita Thornton, civil engineer Jon Williams, and builder and energy activist Michael Songster. Panelists discussed ways to change, circumvent or work within local zoning and building codes while increasing affordable housing. Mayor Girtz touched on an issue targeted by many.
“I think among the things that are most critical, if you had to narrow one down, is density,” Girtz said. “How many units or how many bedrooms can you fit on Any given acre? If you can only put two bedrooms on an acre, you’re not going to be able to fit very many people in an affordable way in a community; but if you can put a hundred beds on that same acre, you’re going to make it more cost effective for every one of those individuals to live their life and pay their rent or pay that mortgage.”
The Housing Code Hack special edition of Athens News Matters airs this Friday at 1 pm and Sunday at noon.