How the Atlanta Beltline broke its promise on affordable housing

NOTE: Research|Action has a report coming on this issue in a few months!

Five years ago, the Lofts at Reynoldstown Crossing were intended to be a bulwark against the rising housing costs that were threatening to turn the Atlanta Beltline into a boardwalk for the rich.

Developers spent $5.1 million to transform the aging warehouse in a historically black neighborhood into condos, and Atlanta Beltline Inc., the agency in charge, offered down payment assistance to middle income families to move in.

The nearby stretch of the Beltline remains months away from completion, but a man lugging moving boxes across the condo parking lot on a recent morning was a sign that these new affordable homes are already beginning to vanish. Dr. Elan Jenkins had just purchased a two-bedroom condo at the complex for $340,000, or more than double what it sold for as part of the Beltline’s affordable home program in 2012.

At that price, the condo is out of reach for three quarters of metro Atlanta, according to an analysis performed by real estate data company Zillow. Jenkins thinks it’s only a matter of time before he’s priced out, too.

“Eventually I won’t be able to even live here, probably,” said Jenkins, an Emory physician.

This is exactly what housing experts warned Beltline administrators about years ago, when experts found that their affordable housing spending could come to nothing by its planned 2030 completion unless they changed course. Along with the ribbon of parks, trails and transit, Atlanta Beltline Inc. was supposed to create at least 5,600 affordable houses and apartments — a goal so important that City Council put it into law.

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