Atlanta’s Golden Age

As you can see in a previous blog post, and through several other local media channels, there’s been much talk about the changes that are happening here in Atlanta. Development hasn’t stopped – in fact it’s on yet another upswing – and this city may look very different in as little as a year.

There is always a price to pay for progress, and a number of articles are discussing the casualties of certain developments, namely gentrification. Being a native New Yorker, I’ve seen plenty of this happen over and over again, until I finally had to leave. Every cool, quaint, and cheap little area became overrun by middle-aged, wealthier groups. They drove up the prices and pushed out the lower income folks like myself, as well as a lot of elderly people who could afford their old neighborhood on Social Security.

I can see the positive aspect of increasing the availability of in-the-city living, but it would be great if we could do it here with a bit more foresight. Today, poor Atlantans are being pushed out of the city, further away from MARTA (which you can read more about here), with mixed- and high-income housing is sprouting up everywhere. People who have lived in houses in the same area for decades must now find an apartment in one of the countless apartment communities around town.

I’m also a little concerned about the direction of some of the new development happening here and other places around the South East, such as Louisiana. A friend described to me the new “neighborhoods” that are being built in the Baton Rouge are – places with town homes, some single-family homes (which are very pricey), and a ready-made “downtown,” so you can live and shop and eat right near your house. Obviously, these neighborhoods are much like Atlantic Station, but more suited for the suburbs.

The problem with developments such as these is that, again, they push out low- and even medium-income families before they’re even erected. In addition, business owners who lack the big-time backing and funding of larger businesses are incapable of reaping the rewards of these convenient locations. Yet another issue with it is the lack of authenticity that real cities have. There’s just something missing when you hang out in a place that resulted from so much money-oriented forethought.

So, while it’s nice to know that Atlanta is climbing the charts for desirability (thanks, Karsh for the happy side of related news :-), it’s important to look at the sacrifice of such progress and weigh its worth. You can read more about the consequences of gentrifying Atlanta here and here (and here , if you have a NY Times subscription).

6 Comments so far

  1. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on May 11th, 2006 @ 4:00 pm

    “Gentrification” is a complex thing – I don’t believe many would argue in favor of only having poor people in the city – but the blame for running low-income, longtime neighborhood residents out when more affluent people move in does not lie with the people driving up property values.

    The problem lies with the city and counties. Somebody who’s been living in East Atlanta for 30 or 40 years isn’t forced to move away because his or her home has tripled in value; he or she is forced out because the rising value results in rising tax appraisals and rising taxes.

    If Atlanta and Fulton & DeKalb counties were interested in helping longtime residents stay in their neighborhoods, they could easily implement a tax exemption targeted specifically at people who have owned their home X amount of years or something to freeze property taxes at the pre-gentrification rate.

    But they’re not interested in doing that, apparently.

    And it absolutely sucks that somebody who’s been in a place like East Atlanta for 40 years and has a house that may well be paid off has to jump out of what is a powerful way to create wealth (real estate appreciation) before they might want to because they can’t afford the taxes.

  2. True Believer (unregistered) on May 11th, 2006 @ 4:24 pm

    Cap’n Ken,

    Most counties & cities in Georgia do exactly what you are proposing- home valuations are frozen at the price paid for the home. Here is an AJC article about it:

    And some information from the State of Georgia (scroll to the bottom):

    There are also quite a few tax exemptions for the elderly and disabled people.

    Aradia, please tell us where we can find these “real cities” you’re talking about. Builders make these projects because people like them. If people didn’t like them, they wouldn’t sell, and builders would make something else. I can’t figure it out myself why anyone likes them, but apparently they do.

  3. plumdrank (unregistered) on May 11th, 2006 @ 4:47 pm

    who invited neil boortz

  4. Cap'n Ken (unregistered) on May 12th, 2006 @ 10:06 pm


    Good point about the freeze exemptions (doesn’t apply in East Atlanta – Atlanta in DeKalb), but I think that’s a slightly different situation. That’s really a way of trying to hold down big increases for everybody – I’d suggest it might be better to hold government accountable for the RATE of tax rather than exempting some people from taxes.

    My point is that if the effects of “gentrification” were something cities like Atlanta really cared about, they could target tax breaks specifically at a defined group (low income, longtime residents for example) to keep them from getting taxed out of the neighborhood and that rising VALUES are good for longtime residents – it’s the rising TAXES that drive them out.

  5. (unregistered) on May 14th, 2006 @ 9:58 am


    Thanks for the link back to my article. :)

    I have to strongly agree with Cap’N Ken. Much of this “shielding” low to middle income folks from these tax hikes could easily be accomplished by prepackaged laws that other communities around the US have put in place. By offering more options for people to be exempt from rapid increases in their taxes, cities could grow at a healthier rate and cities could maintain that special feel they once had. Gentrification will continue to happen, but with a little planning our lawmakers COULD help us achieve smart growth. This allllll goes back to my original question my post asked…. Why are people not talking about solutions instead of complaining about the problem.

    Kudos to you Cap N Ken.

  6. Smoove D (unregistered) on May 20th, 2006 @ 8:52 pm

    I liked this city a lot better when it was full of poor people and Billy C was busy taking bribes instead of putting the coppers on anyone out having fun. If I owned a house that tripled in value, I might feel a little differently.

    And Cap’n, I respectfully disagree. Recently, homeownership has been a great way to build wealth because the bubble blowers over at the Fed have been busy blowing a giant real estate bubble. Now that they are forced to twin realities of inflation (despite taking anything that goes up in price out of the core CPI – eg. food and energy) and an insanely large trade deficit, the party is over. True there have been surveys that homeowners tend to have a much higher net worth on average than non homeowners, but I think they got the cause and effect backwards.

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.