Bill To Create BeltLine Tax District Loses Mention Of Affordable Housing

The BeltLine organization said affordable housing remains a top priority for its current CEO Brian McGowan. 
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE
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Commercial property owners around the Atlanta BeltLine may soon be able to tax themselves to speed up construction of the 22-mile trail.

The Georgia House passed a bill last week that would allow the new tax as part of a special improvement district.

But some are disappointed by what that legislation left out.

The latest bill stripped a section from the previous version permitting the revenue to also fund “supplemental services” for the BeltLine, including affordable housing.

This comes after a year of scrutiny of the BeltLine’s efforts to maintain affordability around the trail, which culminated in the resignation of the organization’s former CEO, Paul Morris.

Georgia Tech planning professor Michael Dobbins said passing up an opportunity to support more low-income housing around the trail is a mistake.

“It runs counter to what Atlanta’s greatest need is, which is to provide housing that people can afford in places where they can get access to their job,” he said.

The BeltLine organization said affordable housing remains a top priority for its current CEO Brian McGowan.

The change in the legislation, however, was necessary to reach a consensus with property owners. Ultimately, they will be the ones voting to levy the tax on their real estate if the bill makes it out of the state legislature.

The organization added that the current bill removes not only the affordable housing component, but also language allocating funding for trail maintenance and security.

According to Tim Schrager of Perennial Properties, who represented apartment owners in the process, all of those things didn’t show up in the legislation until later.

When the BeltLine Partnership originally approached property owners about the special improvement district, he said, the proposal was focused on completing the trail.

“This idea that we’re creating this tax district was never meant to be an all-encompassing vehicle by which taxes would be increased and all these problems would be solved,” Schrager said.

The tax on commercial real estate could bring in around $100 million for the BeltLine’s construction over thirty years. The legislation is currently in the Georgia Senate.