How To Prevent ‘Green Gentrification:’ Lessons from the BeltLine

Writ­ing in The Con­ver­sa­tion, author of Red Hot City: Hous­ing, Race, and Exclu­sion in Twen­ty-First Cen­tu­ry Atlanta Dan Immer­gluck describes how “plan­ning and pol­i­cy deci­sions [in Atlanta] have pro­mot­ed a heav­i­ly racial­ized ver­sion of gen­tri­fi­ca­tion that has exclud­ed low­er-income, pre­dom­i­nant­ly Black res­i­dents from shar­ing in the city’s growth.”

In par­tic­u­lar, Immer­gluck faults the Atlanta Belt­Line multi­use trail, a repur­posed that has in some ways revi­tal­ized the sur­round­ing area at the expense of low-income house­holds who were pushed out. Immer­gluck calls this “green gen­tri­fi­ca­tion” that occurs when new green spaces and facil­i­ties lead to high­er hous­ing costs and dis­place­ment. “If cities fail to pre­pare for these effects, gen­tri­fi­ca­tion and dis­place­ment can trans­form low­er-income neigh­bor­hoods into areas of con­cen­trat­ed afflu­ence rather than thriv­ing, diverse com­mu­ni­ties.”

The Belt­Line, first pro­posed in the 2000s, became a trans­for­ma­tive project for Atlanta. In 2007, Immer­gluck found that prop­er­ty near the Belt­Line were indeed up faster than in oth­er areas. “This meant that prop­er­ty tax­es rose for many low­er-income home­own­ers, and land­lords of rental were like­ly to raise rents in response.”

As the arti­cle , “Rather than focus­ing on secur­ing land for afford­able hous­ing when val­ues were low, Atlanta Belt­Line, Inc. pri­or­i­tized build­ing trails and parks.” Pledges to sup­port afford­able hous­ing went unful­filled. “In 2017 the Atlanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion ran a high-pro­file inves­tiga­tive series doc­u­ment­ing that the Belt­Line had pro­duced 600 units of afford­able hous­ing in 11 years – far off the pace required to meet its tar­get of 5,600 by 2030.”

For Immer­gluck, the les­son for oth­er cities and devel­op­ments is clear. “In my view, the most impor­tant take­away is the impor­tance of front-load­ing afford­able hous­ing efforts in con­nec­tion with major rede­vel­op­ment projects.” He also sug­gests lim­it­ing prop­er­ty tax increas­es for low-income home­own­ers and giv­ing tax breaks to land­lords who keep rental hous­ing units afford­able.

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