National News

Atlanta's Beltline CEO: Affordable housing is top priority

Posted August 10

— The head of Atlanta's Beltline project said Wednesday he and his staffers are "doubling down" their efforts to make sure new development doesn't force out middle- and low-income residents.

"It is one of our most important priorities," said Paul Morris, president and CEO of Atlanta Beltline, Inc.

The Atlanta Beltline is a project that's gradually reclaiming 22 miles of unused railroad tracks as a walking/bicycle trail that surrounds the city's in-town neighborhoods.

The improving economy has made it difficult for Beltline officials to ensure there's enough affordable housing for people who currently live in areas where the Beltline is expanding.

"We're having to essentially double down in our efforts to keep up with the pace of growth," Morris told CBS46 News.

Long-time homeowners in Atlanta's Westside fear that with all the new development near the Beltline, they won't be able to afford to pay the higher property taxes. Morris acknowledged it's a fear of his, too.

"The risk is that other residents will be left behind is a very big pressure and one that we worry about every day," he said.

Morris pointed to a pilot program by the Westside Future Fund, developed by the city of Atlanta in conjunction with private donors. The fund essentially freezes the property taxes of eligible homeowners.

"Going forward, if your taxes go up, the fund will pay the difference," he explained. "So it's not going to impact the escalation value. It's just going to impact your burden."

Morris said his staff and the city's planning department are currently working together see if that Westside pilot program could be expanded all around the Beltline.

As for ensuring that new development includes affordable housing, Morris said he and his staff are having to get creative. They're going out and acquiring property and partnering with developers on the front end, he said.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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