Professor: Atlanta West Side Needs Affordable Housing Now

Georgia Tech Professor Dan Immergluck has found that rent has spiked in Atlanta's Vine City neighborhood and other west side neighborhoods.
Credit Alison Guillory / WABE
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 A new research paper is sounding the alarm over rising rents on Atlanta’s west side, where the BeltLine is slated for paving.

Dan Immergluck, professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech, wrote the paper. Its bottom line: Affordable housing on Atlanta’s west side should be established now, before land values and property taxes rise any higher.

“If it’s three or five years from now, and you say ‘We want to build affordable housing,’ it will be very difficult to do,” Immergluck says. At that point, he says land values could be so high that it will be too expensive to develop affordable housing at all.

Gathering data from Zillow.com, Immergluck found that in the past four years, rents have spiked by as much as 38 percent in four west Atlanta neighborhoods: Bankhead, Home Park, English Avenue and Vine City.

“It’s the canary in the coal mine,” he says. “These increases, if they continue at this rate, are really the early warning for things getting ahead of the planners.”

He says this research reminds him of a report he did in 2007, documenting  rapid increases in rental costs on Atlanta’s east and south side as the BeltLine came in. Those increases signaled the advent of higher property taxes, which priced out some lower-income residents.

At that time, he says, rental prices would rise in neighborhoods where the media had covered the BeltLine, just as now, real estate speculation is at its most intense in places where redevelopment activities are taking place.

Immergluck says the city of Atlanta should consider new strategies to ensure economic diversity, such as better regulations protecting renters, and property tax “circuit breaker” programs that would grant relief to low-income individuals whose property taxes exceed a certain percentage of their incomes.

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