Report: Atlanta has more work to do to make sure development doesn’t displace low-income, minority communities

ATLANTA — A new report says Atlanta has work to do to make sure new high-end development does not displace low-income and minority communities.

The report was just made public as Channel 2′s Dave Huddleston found out the city of Atlanta’s population has blown past 500,000 for the first time.

The report looks at 8 years of growth in the city and determined that the city is doing some things right — but there’s still lots of work to do to make sure Atlanta doesn’t become a city that only the rich can afford to live in.

Walter Reynolds has lived in Atlanta for 50 years, but he told Huddleston that it’s getting harder for homeowners like him to stay in their modest homes.

“Atlanta’s home,” Reynolds said. “It’s just really blooming, but the only thing about it is a lot of people that’s been here for so long are being pushed out because of taxes.”

Reynold said he’s lost a lot of his old neighbors while new more affluent families move into his area.

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“You got a lot of elderly people that’s been here about as long as I have, but as far as tax-wise, the tax goes up, then they have to find another place to stay,” Reynolds said.

Atlanta leaders looked into this and recently released a report on neighborhood change.

They now have evidence that 38 percent of Atlanta’s population experienced substantial change and that change was people moving into neighborhoods while low-income people were pushed out.

“The city has grown dramatically since 2010,” said Tim Keane, Atlanta’s commissioner of planning. “About two out of three new residents of the city are higher income.”

Keane told Huddleston that there are more people living in Atlanta than ever before — more than 500,000 people.

He said with the report, the city is developing programs like the anti-tax displacement fund that will help residents like Reynolds stay in their homes while accommodating new residents.

“That’s a unique tool, that no other city in America has, to pay for the increases in property taxes for low-income people for 20 years,” Keane said.

Keane also said the report will help the city develop programs to keep neighborhoods economically and racially diverse.

“We have to do anti-taxing displacement, we have to do buying up of affordable properties we have now, we have to bake in some affordability to the new development that’s happening so it’s not all affluent new housing,” Keane said.

New city housing can cost $800,000. Lowering that price to $500,000 is still a lot for most families.

Keane told Huddleston that the report highlights the need for policies where affordable home prices aren’t based on fair market value.

“The price of those units is based on income, it’s not based on what the developer wants to do,” Keane said.

Keane said 40% of Atlanta’s population is low-income, and city leaders want it to stay that way.

“In many cities that continue to grow, the percentage of low-income people shrinks to almost nothing. We don’t want that to happen in Atlanta,” Keane said.

Keane said they will continue to update the report each year to make sure they have the right policies in place to help Atlantans.