1. There are many barriers to affordable housing for people with low incomes in Athens-Clarke County.
    • Existing affordable housing is being lost as neighborhoods are re-developed with higher-priced houses and apartment complexes.
    • New affordable housing is difficult to develop due to rising property values, "Not In My Back Yard" attitudes and shrinking federal housing funds.
    • Working families are having difficulty finding homes they can afford to buy ($80,000 to $115,000). To be considered affordable, housing costs should be no more than 30% of income. For an $80,000 home in Athens, an individual would need an annual income of $24,000 to afford monthly homeowner costs. Approximately 17,250 households in Athens could not afford to buy such a home.
    • Working families can't afford rising rental costs, and rental assistance programs are strained. Nearly 13,000 renter households in Athens (56% of those who rent) pay more than 30% of their income on rent.
    • Housing agencies and government programs lack the funding, support and coordination to meet the affordable housing needs of people in Athens.
  2. There is not enough affordable housing and support services for people with specialized housing needs.
    • Athens lacks enough affordable housing that can accommodate and/or support the needs of senior citizens, people with mental illness and/or drug addictions, people with disabilities, people getting out of jail, undocumented workers and homeless people.
  3. The lack of affordable, reliable transportation creates real barriers to escaping poverty in Athens.
    • Without reliable transportation, it is very difficult to find and retain a steady job, go to school activities, get necessary health care, etc.
    • The Athens public transit system is under-funded, leading to a lack of service to many areas of the county, inconvenient timing and layout of routes and limited hours. This means that many people can't rely on the bus to get to work, doctors' appointments, school events or grocery shopping.
    • According to the American Automobile Association, it costs on average $7,834 per year to own and operate a car. A family of 4 living at the federal poverty level only earns $20,000 per year, so owning a car could take up to 40% of their income.

Recurring Themes and Challenges

  1. The notion that there exists a welfare system that "pays people not to work" is a myth. Welfare reform has required that low income families with dependent children must be transitioning to employment in order to receive benefits.
    • The total number of Temporary Assistance to Needy Families cases in Clarke County has decreased by 40% over the past two years.
  2. High levels of poverty are a burden to those who live in poverty and work to undermine the economy of the entire community.
  3. Our institutions and systems have failed to develop collaborative strategies that adequately address the challenges of poverty.
    • There is a culture of poverty in Athens that passes from generation to generation.
    • There is little innovation in developing new programs, opportunities and collaborations to break the cycle of poverty.
  4. A good education is one of the major factors in helping to overcome poverty.
    • An incomplete education -- lack of high school diploma, GED, literacy in English, workforce skills, etc. -- is a serious challenge to decreasing poverty in Athens.
    • Persons who drop out of school have few job options in Athens-Clarke County.
  5. Athens has an unskilled workforce that is a barrier to economic development.
  6. There is a lack of effective coordination and collaboration among faith-based organizations, non-profits, schools, universities and government agencies.
    • There are serious problems getting information to the public about existing assistance programs.
    • There is a lack of specialized support for immigrant populations.
    • There are gaps in services.
  7. Effective strategies to address racism and class issues are lacking.
    • In Athens-Clarke County the consequences of poverty fall mostly on African Americans and, increasingly, on our growing Latino population.
    • There is a hesitancy, by all races, to have honest dialogue about the impact of race and class as they relate to poverty.
  8. There are disincentives built into various systems that make it difficult to break the poverty cycle.