SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Candidates for Savannah city government met to discuss what many people call one of the biggest issues in the area – affordable housing.
First Presbyterian Church was filled with a crowd of people on Monday. Each candidate received 2 minutes to speak, with many sharing their own past struggles with affording to live in Savannah.
“Our city recognizes the problem, but the problem is bigger than they believe,” Rev. Michael Culbreth says.
The city has initiated a number of efforts to address the housing crisis. In 2020, the Housing Action Plan was created. The city also added more than $10 million in both federal and local money to the Savannah Housing Trust, according to Culbreth.
Despite efforts, some say it is not enough.
“We need to ensure that our elected officials are focused on the most important part of the housing problem in our community, which is affordable rental housing for families that are considered low and very low income,” Culbreth says.
Many of the candidates say income-based housing is a solution.
Justice Unites Savannah Together (JUST) is a local organization made up of 22 diverse congregations. Rabbi Robert Haas says this annual forum gives the public a chance to hear what candidates plan to do about major issues if they are elected.
“We really want to work with these people and with everyone else, not only to improve housing and education but a wide variety of things in our community,” Haas says.
Each year, the discussion topic changes depending on the more pressing issues in the city. Organizers say they are deeply concerned about the lack of affordable housing here.
“It’s all about accountability. We want to make sure they know that a lot of people in Savannah realize there’s a housing crisis,” Haas says. “It is really a difficult time. Savannah’s booming, and it’s a great time to be here but people with jobs are having trouble finding places to live. That is one of the biggest issues we face.”
Haas referenced the thousands of jobs coming to the area from the Hyundai Plant in Bryan County.
“Plus, we have people here who are working downtown but can’t afford to live anywhere near downtown. There are a lot of different things, and the city is doing a lot. We want to help them do even more and find ways that we can really solve this issue,” Haas says.
Election day is November 7.
The following candidates for city government were present:
- Mayor: T.L. Davis and Kesha Gibson-Carter
- Post 1 At-Large: Carol Bell, Jason Leslie Combs, Roshida Edwards, Curtis Singleton, Marc Anthony Smith, and Clinton Young
- Post 2 At-Large: Alicia Miller Blakely (i)
- District 6: Lisa Jackson Lockhart and Mike McCann
- District 5: Robert Bryant
- District 4: Calum Crampton, and Sara Jahannes
- District 3: Clinton Cowart, Todd Rhodes, Tammy Stone, Linda Wilder-Bryan (i)
- District 2: Tia Brightwell and Taylor Washington
- District 1: Bernetta Lanier (i)
Three candidates did not come but sent in a statement including:
- Mayor: Van Johnson (i)
- District 4: Nick Palumbo (i)
- District 6: Kurtis Purtee (i)
District 6 incumbent Estella Shabazz was set to attend but could not make it due to a last-minute change of plans.