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In recent weeks, I have seen the most positive signs of a forward press to fervently and meaningfully address the long overdue and deserved attention to the housing needs of our region.

The needle on the change gauge for affordable housing is now moving towards viable solutions, necessary resources, and novel approaches. This action, coupled with political will and commitment, bodes well for those who have been looking for encouraging signs. I sense a paradigm shift from rhetoric to action and real examples happening in a nick of time. Of course, we all know about inflation. Simply put, it is not always a convenient time to do the right thing. Atlanta Mayor Dickens has put down the gauntlet and announced projects, measurable goals, and timetables to increase the housing stock of both affordable homes and apartments.

It should come as no one’s surprise that our region is experiencing rapid growth, development, surging real estate costs, and rental increases. The housing question has been all along, what is going to be done to address the four L’s of labor, land, lumber, and laws?

We know that the answers will not come overnight, but require a plan of action to put it all on the table and act. It now appears that key elected officials, reputable housing organizations, financial institutions, and government agencies are coming to the table with a fervor I have not seen for quite a while. This bodes ever so well for working-class families and middle-income individuals anxious to get their feet on the ladder upward toward wealth building.

Another major issue getting much-needed attention and resources would be our homeless population. Resources are being found, directed, and in some cases, being redirected to sheltering and removing the visible signs of outdoor existence, especially during this early arrival of summer temperatures in Atlanta.

It is quite encouraging to see the level of commitment for change to the issues that had been just waving in the breeze, often out of frustration and lack of funds for a meaningful change. It’s a tall mountain that cannot be scaled on desire and hope alone. It is certainly reasonable to expect that part of the impetus for movement may be because it is election season. Candidates are being asked tough questions, when possible, and incumbents are showing some signs of uneasiness when pressed for an accounting of their actions while in office. Locally, we surely can expect closer scrutiny and citizen involvement in county business following the cityhood referendums that were unsuccessful. It just appears that the stars are lining up in the galaxy above us.

The other very important development you need to be aware of is the realization by the banking industry that it is finally time to fess up to the levels of unjust enrichment it has enjoyed for too many years at the expense of working-class customers. I am speaking of overdraft fees. A few have already taken steps to roll back, eliminate, or adjust overdraft fees. You can have a discussion of this subject without coming down on the side of justifying anyone writing checks on funds they do not have. However, we all know things happen for a myriad of reasons and unless you were successful in coping a courtesy plea to that person on the other end of that phone or the bank customer service representative, you could not cross your fingers tight enough in hopes of getting a fee reduction or elimination. Just keeping it real, folks. Banks received billions of dollars annually from overdraft fees. It reminds us of the monies most airlines reap from baggage fees but this fee can really sting those that can least afford it. Yes, the area of billions I am referring to is $12-20 billion yearly for several years. As it is said, it’s better late than never. A good gesture from an important link in the chain.

Stay tuned. Let’s see where these hopeful signs take us. A better place for many deserving individuals and families would be my expectation. It is no doubt that rising tides can lift all boats, even some stuck at the bottom.   

Hope springs eternal.

Until next time… 

Michael Murphy


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