Gentrification Is A Growing Pain In Atlanta. So Is Finding Affordable Housing

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Written by Ann Brown

 

Gentrification has been happening in many parts of Atlanta for the past few years. But now many of the city’s Black residents feel it’s happening at an accelerated pace, especially in areas like the BeltLine, where the mayor is now pushing for affordable housing to counteract all the development going on.

Many area residents saw the new development as a blessing. Now longtime residents are being priced out — and pushed out.

Spike Lee is one of the most outspoken critics of gentrification — the process of renovating deteriorated urban neighborhoods by bringing in more affluent residents. It’s a controversial topic in politics and urban planning. Unable to afford the rising cost of property, residents get forced out of long-established communities.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms is appealing to area residents to ride out the wave. “I told them, ‘If you live on the Westside of Atlanta, do not sell your property right now,’” Bottoms said in a recent interview about working-class homeowners in a predominantly African-American area.

“The good news is that we have all this development,” said Bottoms, who took office in January, in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report. “The flip side of that is people are getting pushed out.”

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A man walks under the Interstate 75/85 overpass whose construction cut the Auburn neighborhood in half, Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Atlanta. Today Auburn Avenue is a shell of its former self, the bustling mix of banks, night clubs, churches, meat markets and funeral homes long gone, replaced with crumbling facades and cracked sidewalks. Hundreds of thousands of people still flock to Auburn Avenue to see King’s birth home, the church where he preached and the crypt where he and his wife, Coretta, are buried. But tourists have little reason to linger. While King’s legacy has been preserved, Auburn Avenue’s business community has never recovered from the exodus of the black community that supported it. This week, the area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places’ 11 Most Endangered list for the second time since 1992 in hopes of spurring preservation-oriented development. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

 

The BeltLine is Atlanta’s trail project that follows rail corridors in a 22-mile loop around the city. It’s funded by government agencies, nonprofit donors, and a tax-allocation district.

In 2012, the first portion of the Eastside Trail opened, and so did new condos and apartment buildings, restaurants and stores. In fall 2017, after three years of construction, a section of the trail opened on the Westside, WSJ reported. And the BeltLine will be getting bigger as Atlanta recently purchased another 1.8 miles of former railroad corridor on the Westside for $6.3 million. The entire BeltLine project is expected to be completed by 2030.

What has the mayor and others concerned is the lack of affordable housing.

According to the CEO, Brian McGowan (who has since left his post), “the area around the BeltLine should have about 10,000 units of affordable housing by 2030. The area currently has about 2,600 such units. Affordable housing in the city is defined as rental units for people earning no more than 80% of the area’s median income, or no more than $1,047 a month for a single person,” WSJ reported. Still, the prices on housing has risen.

In the two zip codes that cover most of the Westside’s West End area, median prices for single-family homes and condos rose 54 percent and 110 percent, respectively, from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2018, according to property-data provider Attom Data Solutions. Median home prices rose about 49 percent in metro Atlanta as a whole during the same period, the WSJ reported.

Bottoms said she is going to fight for affordable housing — and this is part of the central platform of her campaign. Bottoms wants ”to secure $1 billion in public and private funding to help preserve and build affordable housing. Since January, city agencies and related nonprofits have provided about $50 million in incentives and programs,” she said.