Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce Director Megan Roberts says the City’s “Young Professionals” group has seen a period of “extraordinary growth,” recently, with more than 25 people attending each event…up from just a handful at this same time last year. She told the Atlantic City Council Wednesday, that the growth demonstrates an increase in young families coming to Atlantic and becoming involved in the community. They include new teachers, accountants, retail managers, and specialists in other fields. Roberts said while the influx of new and younger residents is great to see, it also points out the dire need for affordable housing in the community.
Roberts said the Chamber has had “Lots of requests” for housing, and it’s one of the biggest struggles young people wanting to move into the community, have. She says the situation isn’t going to improve anytime soon, but there are groups such as the Cass-Atlantic Development Corporation (CADCO), who are working to tackle the problem. Roberts said she hopes the Council continues to support those efforts.
CADCO Housing Committee Chairman Pat McCurdy agreed with Roberts that there is a shortage of “All kinds of housing in this town.” He said there are two ways to improve the situation, one is by making the City more attractive so homes can sell. McCurdy commended the Council and City for approving and enforcing the “Minimum Maintenance Code,” which improves the value of a home and makes the City a more attractive place to live. Toward that end, McCurdy says local youth from eight different church groups are getting involved with CADCO to paint three houses this Saturday, owned by poor or eldery residents. All the materials and paint have been donated.
Another way the City can improve its housing situation, according to McCurdy, is to come up with a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Plan, that is applicable to new housing developments. He said local developer Don Sonntag and others want to build more homes, but “He needs some help,” in the form of a TIF. He said individuals have a hard time to build affordable housing and “Make it cash flow,” without some sort of help, because the rent in Atlantic is not high enough. He said without housing, the young professionals, some of whom work in other, nearby towns, and want to live in Atlantic, cannot afford to live here and raise their families.
The Atlantic City Council, Wednesday, tabled action on a TIF plan, at the request of Councilman Shawn Shouse, head of a Committee tasked with creating a draft, fair plan for the Council to approve. Shouse requested the delay in discussion because he was made aware of information based on legislation passed earlier this Summer in Iowa, that will need to be incorporated into any policy the City develops. The Council will discuss further, but not take action on the matter, during their meeting on October 17th.