Atlanta Beltline Could Spur Thousands of New Homes

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ATLANTA — The Atlanta Beltline is using a community land trust and an affordable housing trust fund that would keep and create more than 5,000 units of affordable housing in the city, Channel 2 Action News has learned.

Organizers said it's an effort to keep residents already living in city limits, and entice new residents to move in.

The Atlanta Beltline project is a 22-mile light rail loop around the city that will create and connect neighborhoods, parks, shops and restaurants, officials said. As new development pops up along the project, it should increase property values and property taxes, organizers said. The community land trust will help certain people afford housing and keep their property taxes down.

Atlanta Beltline organizers said they are operating on the concept of building neighborhoods. Officials told Channel 2 the community land trust and the affordable housing trust fund combine to become the largest affordable housing initiative ever taken on by the city. In the community trust, the trust will own the land, while the homeowner owns the structure on it, but there are income requirements to be eligible, official said.

So far, the plan includes several houses that already existed along the transit loop.

LINK: Requirements For Land Trust Affordable Housing VIDEO: Beltline Project: Organizers Want Affordable Housing Along Route

"As the new development came in, you weren't kind of leaving people who had been there forever in the dirt," said Atlanta Beltline supporter and former city councilwoman Cathy Woolard.

The first section targeted is the Pittsburgh community in southwest Atlanta. National statistics showed the neighborhood has one of the highest foreclosure rates in the county.

"Families who need more assistance can live there, as well as folks who are very well off and need no assistance. (All) can be living there together," said Atlanta Housing Authority CEO Renee Glover.

Atlanta Beltline organizers said the program eventually would spread to other parts of the city.

"The city has gotten very expensive. (There's) high taxes, and all the reasons for people not to live in the city," said A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress. "Take police officers or firemen. They don't need to be living 20 to 30 miles away because that's what they can afford. They need to be living in the neighborhoods of Atlanta," said Robinson.

Chicago was the first large U.S. city to establish a citywide community land trust program. It began five years ago, and city officials said it already has put 50 families in new homes all across town. Channel 2's Jovita Moore traveled there to see how their program works.

"A few years ago, we had a big real estate boom here and there was a number of communities that, in fact, were seeing rapid increases in property value," said Ellen Sahli, first deputy director of Chicago's Department of Community Development. "We knew we needed to do something to protect the long term affordability of those housing units.

The Collins-Edwards family was the first to close on a house in Chicago's program, according to officials.

"If it wasn't for this, I'm not sure we would be able to afford this house," said Andrea Collins-Edwards.