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Will Atlanta’s ‘inclusionary zoning’ work in Beltline, Westside neighborhoods?

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City becomes Georgia’s first to try building requirements, in hopes of easing affordability crunch.

Construction on Atlanta’s Eastside Trail extension in early 2017.
New requirements are meant to push developers toward creating more affordable units along the Beltline.
Curbed Atlanta

Faced with the metastasizing dilemma that is intown affordability, Atlanta became a Peach State pioneer this week in green-lighting new requirements meant to spur developers into providing more attainable housing for non-high-rollers.

The concept of “inclusionary zoning” has been kicked around for years, but this week the Atlanta City Council took action, voting to apply the requirement to Beltline neighborhoods and communities near Mercedes-Benz Stadium, WABE reports.

Because Georgia law prohibits restricting landlords with rent control, inclusionary zoning is viewed by Mayor Kasim Reed and others as perhaps the most viable route toward housing equality right now. Last month, Georgia Tech State professor Dan Immergluck told Curbed’s national team that such a formal social contract with developers is the best means of making a dent in the city’s affordability problem.

Immergluck’s research indicates that, between 2011 and 2015, property values within a half-mile of certain Beltline segments rose about 18 to 27 percent more than elsewhere in the city.

In Atlanta’s case, inclusionary zoning will mean that developers must dedicate a specific portion of units to Atlantans who make between 60 and 80 percent of an area’s median income.

The options, as WABE relays, are:

“Developers can choose between making 10 percent of units available to 60 percent area median income or 15 percent of units to 80 percent area median income.”

This mandatory tool, however, isn’t without its critics.

City Observatory dug into inclusionary zoning—or IZ—situations in markets across the country last year, finding that while the specifics vary from city to city, the zoning efforts overall are hardly a panacea, in most cases.

“Unfortunately,” wrote City Observatory, “IZ is more powerful as a symbol than as a way of helping people.”