This story has been updated.
With the Beltline’s Westside Trail on track to be completed by July 31, Atlanta’s mayor is backing a program intended to prevent residents from being priced out of their homes.
Mayor Kasim Reed on Wednesday announced that the city is teaming up with the Westside Future Fund on a program that will offset the costs of higher taxes for qualified homeowners. As home prices along the Beltline go up, so does the tax bill, which pushes residents out of their homes.
Under the terms of the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund Program, qualified homeowners in the English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and Atlanta University Center neighborhoods will receive financial help to offset the cost of higher taxes.
“The new program is designed to help ensure that current homeowners are not displaced due to rising property values as public and private investments are made in these neighborhoods,” a press release from the city says.
The Westside Future Fund will keep up with the money and the program will depend on “philanthropic donations.” Donors include the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the Georgia Power Foundation, Cox Enterprises, Pulte Group, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific and individual contributor Tommy Holder, chairman and CEO of Holder Construction Company.
It will operate like a grant program, giving aid to homeowners who qualify without requiring them to pay the money back. People can apply starting today, April 12 through March 15, 2018. The pay outs start in the 2018 tax year. Click here for more information about eligibility requirements and to download an inquiry form.
“The City of Atlanta is proud to launch this essential program which will help ensure that long-time residents get to share in the prosperity coming to the Westside, thanks to new infrastructure, new parks, more transit, the Atlanta Beltline, and a surge in economic development,” Mayor Reed is quoted as saying in the press release. “This program is another stake in the ground to preserve the character and the history of our transformative Atlanta neighborhoods. I would like to thank [Department of Planning and Community Development] Commissioner Tim Keane for his leadership, and all the partners who believe in our vision to revitalize Westside Atlanta and serve as a City where everyone can live and build their dreams.”
The Westside Trail is one of the many projects looking to expand the Beltline’s shared-use trails and greenspaces. The Westside Trail is expected to be a 3-mile multi-use trail, consisting of 14-foot wide pathways with 14 access points with over 40 acres of greenway.
The expansion of the trail will bring new development along with it, increasing property values. Housing affordability has been top of mind recently for officials with Atlanta BeltLine Inc., which oversees the 22-mile multi-use trail. A recent quarterly briefing by ABI focused heavily on the effects of gentrification caused by the trail’s expansion and ways ABI and its partners are working to promote affordable housing options.
Ryan Gravel, whose master’s thesis inspired the Atlanta Beltline, recently left the Atlanta Beltline Partnership board along with Nathaniel Smith. Gravel and Smith said the Partnership had not given enough attention to housing affordability. The Partnership is the fundraising arm of the Beltline project.
Here is the full press release about the program provided by the city of Atlanta:
ATLANTA– Mayor Kasim Reed announced today that the City of Atlanta is partnering with the Westside Future Fund to launch the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund Program, an initiative which will pay any property tax increases for qualifying homeowners in the English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and Atlanta University Center communities. The new program is designed to help ensure that current homeowners are not displaced due to rising property values as public and private investments are made in these neighborhoods.
During a press conference held at the home of an English Avenue resident who has qualified for the program, Mayor Reed was joined by Department of Planning and Community Development Commissioner Tim Keane, Westside Future Fund Executive Director John Ahmann, Vine City Neighborhood Association President Pastor Dexter Johnson and Atlanta Councilmembers Ivory Lee Young, Jr., Michael Julian Bond and Keisha Lance Bottoms. Commissioner Tim Keane was instrumental in helping shape the program by offering best practices from a similar initiative administered in the City of Charleston.
“The City of Atlanta is proud to launch this essential program which will help ensure that long-time residents get to share in the prosperity coming to the Westside, thanks to new infrastructure, new parks, more transit, the Atlanta BeltLine, and a surge in economic development,” said Mayor Reed. “This program is another stake in the ground to preserve the character and the history of our transformative Atlanta neighborhoods. I would like to thank Commissioner Tim Keane for his leadership, and all the partners who believe in our vision to revitalize Westside Atlanta and serve as a City where everyone can live and build their dreams.”
“The Department of Planning and Community Development is committed to achieving sustainable growth in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods,” said Commissioner Keane. “As part of that sustainable growth, we must have programs and policies in place to ensure affordable housing and offer housing incentives and resources to our residents who need them the most. We hope that the Anti-Displacement Tax Program is one of many initiatives to come.”
The fund, administered by the Westside Future Fund and sourced from philanthropic donations, will operate as a grant for individuals and will not require participants to pay back any funds received. Residents can apply for the grant program from April 12, 2017 – March 15, 2018. Fund payments will begin in the 2018 tax year.
The program is one of many strategies initiated by the Westside Community Retention Collaborative, which was created to address Westside resident concerns on displacement and gentrification. The Collaborative is driven by the Department of Planning and Community Development, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Atlanta Housing Authority, Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Beltline, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity and the Westside Future Fund. The Collaborative receives guidance and input from members of the community.
“Our success begins and ends with the residents,” said John Ahmann, Executive Director of the Westside Future Fund. “When the Westside Future Fund was created, we were clear in our intention to do right by the members of this community. I’m grateful to have a board and a host of supporters who have taken that charge to heart. Their tireless support and generosity allows us to keep our promise, ensuring that the people who have grown up and built their lives here can continue to be a part of it for generations to come.”
Philanthropic support comes from the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Chick-fil-A Foundation, the Georgia Power Foundation, Cox Enterprises, Pulte Group, Delta Air Lines, Georgia-Pacific and individual contributor Tommy Holder, chairman and CEO of Holder Construction Company.
The Reed Administration has made it a priority to revitalize Atlanta’s Westside and has worked to bring new public and private resources to support economic and civic development in the area.
In 2015, Mayor Reed partnered with Atlanta business leaders to establish the Westside Future Fund. The Fund serves as a catalyst for philanthropic and corporate support to accelerate improvements in the health, education and welfare of current residents, address equity and social justice issues associated with new residential and commercial development, and attract new investment, new jobs and new residents.
The City of Atlanta has pledged more than $30 million in new infrastructure, greenspace expansion and to fund Martin Luther King Jr. Drive streetscape improvements, which will transform the iconic road into a connected corridor with a Complete Streets approach.
In September 2015, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) awarded the City of Atlanta a $30 million CHOICE Neighborhoods Implementation Grant, which has already enabled the city to leverage additional public and private funds to assist in revitalizing five Westside neighborhoods.
In June 2016, the City of Atlanta received the Promise Zone designation, which allows the City to work strategically with HUD and other federal agencies to boost economic activity and job growth, improve educational opportunities, reduce crime and leverage private investment to improve the quality of life in the “Westside Promise Zone,” comprised of the historic Atlanta University Center neighborhood, Ashview Heights, Vine City, English Avenue and Castleberry Hill.
The communities will also soon welcome the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Castleberry Park mixed-use development and a Hard Rock Hotel.
Writer Gabriel Owens contributed to this story.