After viewing the numerous public comments at the Cobb County Board of Commissioners Meeting July 13, it was clear that a disproportionate number of our working-class neighbors of color are being displaced by inflated rental market rates. I was disappointed to read that the Marietta City Council denied Veterans Services USA’s proposal to transform the declining Raddison Hotel into mixed-income apartments. While the proposed affordable apartments would be designated for veterans over 55, I believe it could pave the way for future mixed-income apartments and mitigate the inequities in Cobb County’s current housing market. Frequently living on fixed incomes, older adults in our community are especially vulnerable to the rising costs of living and housing market rates. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported 37.7% of Georgians over 65 experience financial insecurity.
As Mr. McNulty and Veteran Services USA (VSUSA) reevaluate their plan after the denial of their rezoning proposal, I hope they focus on the core objective of their project: providing affordable housing for aging veterans. By developing partnerships with the Marietta Veteran Center and Cobb County VA Clinics, VSUSA could provide residents with integrative support services and healthcare tailored to meet their unique needs.
Additionally, VSUSA needs to reconsider the proposed square footage of its apartments in light of accessibility. According to the American Community Survey, 20.6% of the veterans living in Georgia have a disability. Since the proposal targets individuals over 55, VSUSA must prepare for the inevitability that mobility declines as we age. Is 350 square feet sufficient space for adults to maneuver with assistive devices?
As a graduate student of social work at the University of Georgia, I have learned that the “loneliness epidemic” – social isolation experienced among older Americans – can be detrimental to one’s health. Creating a space for older veterans who have shared life experiences from their time in service to live and congregate could produce significant psychological, social, and health benefits. I hope the Marietta City Council considers the positive impacts Veteran Service USA’s proposal could have on the lives of our neighbors whose sacrifices have protected our community.