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Atlanta's Affordability Crisis Gains National Attention

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Old Fourth Ward
Row of residential homes along Ralph McGill Boulevard in the Old Fourth Ward

Atlanta's war for affordable housing gained national attention this week.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday about the struggles the city of Atlanta is facing with affordable housing in rapidly gentrifying areas of the city, especially along the much-vaunted BeltLine.

In the Westside and West End neighborhoods alone, the paper reports that median home prices for single-family houses and condos rose 54% and 110%, respectively, from 2014 to 2018. During the same period, metro area home prices rose just 49%.

Those kind of skyrocketing values prompted Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — who has prioritized an agenda to increase the city's stock of affordable housing — to tell working-class homeowners in these gentrifying areas to hold on.

“I told them, 'If you live on the Westside of Atlanta, do not sell your property right now,” the WSJ reports Bottoms saying. “The good news is that we have all this development. The flip side of that is people are getting pushed out.”

Bisnow found a similar theme earlier this year in the Old Fourth Ward — one of the city's hottest neighborhoods — where longtime residents were feeling the pressure to sell as their home values jumped, along with their property taxes.

“I'm somewhat distressed by the fact that real estate prices are doing what we anticipated they would do,” said Mtamanika Youngblood, a former telecommunications executive who, with her husband, began to rehabilitate homes in the area and currently chairs the Historic Development Corp., a nonprofit that aims to preserve and revitalize homes in the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic District.

“We could see this train coming and the light at the end of it is more train," she said.

Youngblood has revitalized more than 100 homes in the area, with many still owned by the original tenants. But there has been a noticeable trend in the reverse as well, she previously told Bisnow, where residents were selling newly constructed homes at significantly higher prices, pushing up property values in the whole area.

“I knew it was going to happen. But it caught us off guard because it happened so fast,” Youngblood said. “We found out that in two, three years, the houses were doubling in price. A good portion of the folks had cashed out.”

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. interim CEO Clyde Higgs told the WSJ that the BeltLine is “absolutely behind” on affordable housing, with only 2,600 units designated as such along the path. The organization's goal is to have 10,000 units by 2030.

Bottoms told the paper she plans on appointing a full-time staffer dedicated to addressing the affordability issue in the city.