As the Atlanta BeltLine’s national profile grows, so have housing costs, and concerns that the rails-to-trails greenway could price out neighbors closer to home. With only 560 units built to date of the 5,600 affordable housing units promised along the 22-mile loop, Atlanta BeltLine announced last week it hopes to raise $7.5 million to encourage affordable development, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
At a meeting with Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency, Atlanta BeltLine said it plans to float $50 million in new bonds, with 15 percent set aside for incentives that would entice developers to include more affordable housing in their projects. That $7.5 million would allow the city to offer builders tax credits, and to prioritize affordability in future BeltLine neighborhoods before existing housing gets priced out of reach.
“We’re kind of at an inflection point,” says Paul Morris, Atlanta BeltLine’s CEO and president. “The pace with which that affordability is declining is much faster than anything else happening in our economy.”
Invest Atlanta board member Emma Darnell told the Journal-Constitution she’s already hearing residents’ concerns about displacement. Housing costs on the existing eastside trail have increased dramatically over the past five years, as developers have built thousands of new apartments and condos there. Officials are working on strategies now to help homeowners remain on the still-under-construction westside trail.
“What is affordable today may not be affordable tomorrow,” cautioned Atlanta City Councilman and Invest Atlanta board member Andre Dickens.
At the same Thursday meeting, Invest Atlanta approved a $70 million 2017 fiscal budget for the BeltLine. The majority of the $50 million bond would be used for capital projects; $2.5 million will be spent on economic development.
Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.