By Gabriel Owens, contributor
The Atlanta BeltLine Inc. held its first 2017 quarterly briefing Thursday night at Atlanta Technical College, and it focused heavily on making housing along the Beltline affordable.
ABI Chief Executive Officer Paul Morris kicked off the meeting by going over some of the Beltline’s progress. This included the upcoming Kirkwood Avenue lane closure (where Kirkwood meets the Eastside Trail’s southern extension), with the start and duration still to be determined.
Additionally, he assured residents that despite the work being done on Krog Street with pavement and lighting, the graffiti art will not be disturbed.
The briefing then shifted gears to focusing on livability within the Beltline.
“We are hitting gentrification head on,” Morris said. “We do not want to see residents priced out of their homes.”
Following the introduction, the six panelists proceeded to give a detailed overview of pricing, housing and their efforts to increase affordability in the Belt. Some highlights included:
– Moderator Sameera Fazili, visiting advisor from the Federal Bank of Atlanta, showed the difficulty of sustained “mixed income” neighborhoods in Atlanta.
– This included statistics on Atlanta being the second worst place in the U.S. for upward mobility, along with the growing national trend of family groups moving from homeowners to rentals.
– Deputy Executive Director of the Atlanta Beltline Partnership David Jackson stressed the importance of the Beltline work, including the idea of connecting 45 neighborhoods and creating a cohesive
– Valerie Bernardo, director of the city of Atlanta’s Housing and Community Development Office, assured the audience the city is looking to create “displacement free zones” and is in the process of blight removal on the West Side. The results of both will be discussed at the April Atlanta City Council meeting, she said.
– Atlanta Housing Authority President and CEO Catherine Buell pointed to the areas that have already been authorized for affordable housing, like Herndom Homes and Englewood Manor 1500. She stated the Housing Authority is still looking for more areas and is actively pursuing them.
The audience Q and A addressed various concerns, including the failure of the Eastside Trail in providing any affordable housing. Fazili said this was due to developers having already bought up property, eliminating the feasibility of such housing.
“Land is key,” she said. “And zoning is important. Going forward, we will be more aggressive in these areas to protect affordability and mixed income neighborhoods.”
The next quarterly briefing is scheduled for June, time and place to be determined. More information on the Beltline can be found on www.beltline.org.