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As Buckhead Studies Affordable Housing, Options Disappear

A plan created by several community groups outlined the "inadequate" state of affordable housing in Buckhead. It found that  for every 18 service industry employees in the area, there is only one affordable apartment available.
A plan created by several community groups outlined the "inadequate" state of affordable housing in Buckhead. It found that for every 18 service industry employees in the area, there is only one affordable apartment available.
Credit Al Such / WABE

Outside the Darlington apartments on Peachtree Road, Romunda Bostic and other residents gathered to pray this week. Bostic, who was leading the prayer, has lived in her apartment for about five years. But now, she has to go.

Tenants, many of which have fixed or low incomes, were recently given 60 days to vacate their homes. The owners of the complex, Hammond Residential, plan to make multi million dollar renovations to the apartments, which were built in the 1950s.

That leaves Bostic and hundreds of other residents of the Darlington looking for new, affordable housing — which will be a feat in one of the the wealthiest neighborhoods in Atlanta.

Bostic said, she feels like this marks the end of an era.

“People fail to realize, the old Buckhead was not a place where you had Tom Ford and all the shops up the street,” Bostic said. “It was a place where people would conjugate. They had clubs, parties. It was the working class people who lived here.”

And she may have a point.

Dr. Dan Immergluck, a professor of urban studies at Georgia State University, said the Darlington is one example of a pattern of disappearing affordable housing in Buckhead and around the city.

Community groups have taken notice. Last year’s “master plan” for the city, created by Buckhead CID, Livable Buckhead and other groups, prioritized “diversifying housing.”

The plan also outlined the “inadequate” state of affordable housing in the area for service sector employees and other workers with monthly rent affordability below $1,000/month. For every 18 service industry employees, there is only one affordable apartment available.

The first step the plan recommended is a study, looking into affordability in the area. Denise Starling, the director of Livable Buckhead, said what worried her group most is that 98 percent of people who work in Buckhead don’t live there.

“We’ve got all this retail, all of these hotels and service industry and jobs,” Starling said. “Those are not as high up level paying jobs. And then our residential opportunities here are so high end. That there’s a complete mismatch.”

This “mismatch” leads to traffic, the other problem Starling’s study is focusing on. She hopes they can find ways to cut build their way out of the city’s traffic problems.

It’s also an attempt to make affordable housing an issue for everyone.

“It’s easy if you’re talking about affordable housing for a lot of people to ignore the issue and say ‘that’s not my problem,'” Starling said. “But when you’re talking about traffic…that’s everybody’s problem.”

The study should take six months to complete.

In the meantime, these future affordable housing plans will come too late for the residents of the Darlington.

Community organizations such as Buckhead Christian Ministries, and others, have said they will step in to help residents find homes. As of Wednesday, only about one hundred residents remained.

Many of those left behind said the only thing they feel like they can do, is pray about it.