Letter to the Beltline: We Support Ryan and Nathaniel


October 5, 2016

Last week, Ryan Gravel, credited as the brainchild behind the Atlanta Beltline and Nathaniel Smith, founder of the Partnership for Southern Equity, submitted resignation letters to the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. They cited concerns about affordable housing along the growing trail, and a lack of pedestrian green space. The Housing Justice League would like to commend Ryan Gravel and Nathaniel Smith for taking a principled stand. Affordability along the Beltline has become a growing issue-- its popularity is raising housing prices and exacerbating concerns that have already displaced long-term residents. It threatens to make Atlanta even more unaffordable for low to moderate income residents.

Atlanta Beltline, which oversees the development of what will be a 22-mile loop through the city, has said it hopes to raise $7.5 million to encourage affordable housing development. In their resignation letters, Gravel and Smith noted, however, that “funding is far from what is needed." For example: The recent announcement of $7.5 million from TAD bonds will likely support fewer than 200 affordable units out of ABI’s obligation to 5,600. When compared to the need, the pair said, current funding “is a drop in the bucket”. As the economy roars back to life, and the city accelerates, this work is increasingly urgent. Gravel and Smith mentioned they feel strongly that, "our attention must be channeled directly toward it.”

It is clear; the city of Atlanta has made little effort to hold the Beltline developers accountable. The developers have built exclusively luxury housing, creating a period of unbridled wealth extraction from communities that have only recently begun strong economic development. The Beltiline's unfolding makes us wonder, 'What type of city we will be left with, if the Beltline continues to develop without accountability to communities it profits from? The Beltline is a reality, and there seems to be no turning back from this popular city project. Huge rent hikes and displacements have already occurred around the completed sections of the Beltline. If Atlanta is to be a city that works for everyone, we simply cannot afford to allow the Beltline to continue to develop in its current fashion. We hope this serves as a wake-up call to the City of Atlanta, City council, Mayor Reed, and Paul Morris. It is time to hold developers accountable to their commitments.

In conclusion, we support Ryan Gravel and Nathaniel Smith for their courageous efforts to seek equity and equality for all.

With Love and Power,
Housing Justice League