Residents Fight for their Communities and Offer Solutions
ATLANTA, October 12, 2017: The Atlanta BeltLine greenway development is displacing low income residents even in neighborhoods that it has not yet touched, says a new report by the Atlanta advocacy group Housing Justice League and Research|Action Cooperative. The Atlanta BeltLine, which will ultimately be a 22-mile loop of green parks, trails, and streetcars circling inside city neighborhoods along discontinued rail beds, is a force for gentrification and displacement of long-time, low-income residents, many of them Black. But it does not have to be that way.
As Alison Johnson, a Peoplestown resident and Housing Justice League member who helped author this report, says,
Communities on the Southside deserve to be a part of the process to shape and determine the neighborhoods where we live. We want the kind of responsible, democratic city building that gives us the best quality of life, not that which is done by and for the wealthy.
Research by the Atlanta community group Housing Justice League and Research|Action Cooperative in the three historically Black neighborhoods of Adair Park, Peoplestown, and Pittsburgh tracks the hopes of the residents for the BeltLine, how they are actually affected by it, and the forces of gentrification that, if left unimpeded, will damage the economic and racial diversity that long-term residents and newcomers alike say is a strength of the area.
The report – BeltLining: Gentrification, Broken Promises, and Hope on Atlanta’s Southside – builds upon a survey, analysis of census data, and a year-long participatory action research project. The researchers found that:
- Residents overwhelmingly want to stay in their neighborhoods,
- Gentrification has already raised property values and displaced people in historically Black neighborhoods not yet touched by BeltLine development, and
- Atlanta failed to enact protections against displacement that have been effective in other parts of the country. It still has time to do so as the BeltLine turns its development eye to more of the historically Black Southside.
The report’s major recommendation is for Atlanta BeltLine Inc., the public-private partnership leading the development, and the City as a whole, to embrace more democratic planning processes so that the interests of current residents are incorporated into development, and the supportive networks among neighbors are protected and appreciated.
Atlanta BeltLine Inc. was launched in 2005, when the Atlanta City Council, Atlanta Public Schools, and Fulton County all empowered a new Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District to fund both parks and housing—only 5,600 units of it affordable—in neighboring areas. The hope of the BeltLine lies in its initial promises: to spur equitable development and to include a robust affordable housing strategy to prevent displacement.
But as Atlanta BeltLine Inc. itself acknowledges, almost midway through the 25-year-long development period, fewer than 1,000 units of affordable housing have been built in the area, far short of the original goal, even as housing prices near the greenways are rising faster than in the city as a whole. This means the area is losing far more existing affordable housing than it is creating. And there are no rent regulations or alternative property tax policies to stop the surge.
Housing Justice League members pressed elected officials to enact policy solutions that protect current residents of gentrifying areas and create more affordable housing.