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Report shows Atlanta’s prosperity is eluding some minority communities

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The Annie E. Casey Foundation has laid out recommendations for how to tackle inequality issues

Vine City, with symbols of Atlanta’s downtown prosperity beyond.
Empty lots and houses in Vine City, with symbols of Atlanta’s downtown prosperity beyond.
Dustin Chambers, Curbed Atlanta

Despite Atlanta’s chronic income inequality issues, African-Americans here are faring better economically than those is nearly every other U.S. city.

That’s according to a new report by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which found that despite measurable progress in recent years, people of color in Atlanta—especially those living south of Interstate 20—still face “deeply rooted barriers that prevent them from accessing the same opportunities and resources as their white counterparts.”

Those opportunities and resources include education, housing, and employment.

The report, called Changing the Odds: Progress and Promise in Atlanta, follows research laid out in the organization’s 2015 study Changing the Odds: The Race for Results in Atlanta, which showed that the city’s “tremendous economic growth” often leaves African-American neighborhoods and other communities of color behind.

Granted, some of the strides made in recent years are encouraging. For instance, graduation rates among African-American and Latino students have climbed by 21 and 20 percent, respectively, since 2014.

Elsewhere, however, “stark disparities persist,” per the report.

Black Atlantans make only one-third of the income of white residents and are nearly five times more likely to be unemployed.

Additionally, more than 75 percent of African-American children and 40 percent of Latino children in Atlanta reside in high-poverty areas.

Compare that to the 6 percent of white kids who live in such communities.

South of downtown, the 31-acre vision for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Pittsburgh Yards. The Beltline-adjacent project aims to create equitable jobs and boost nearby neighborhoods. It’s been under construction since early 2018.
Courtesy of Annie E. Casey Foundation

“Though progress is being made, we must continue working to ensure all Atlantans—no matter their race or where or how they grow up—can realize their full potential,” said Kweku Forstall, director of the foundation’s Atlanta Civic Site, according to a press release.

The recent Changing the Odds report maps out recommendations for neighborhood groups, government officials, and nonprofits that hope to bridge Atlanta’s daunting racial gaps in income, education, housing, and employment.

Some of the recommendations might seem like obvious remedies to these racial inequities, and enacting such policies, especially around ITP Atlanta, is oftentimes much easier said than done.

Suggestions include curbing displacement, supporting minority-owned businesses, and promoting affordability among educational and housing opportunities.

“With surging rents come increased property taxes and often gentrification,” the report says. “This pattern, combined with years of disinvestment, is making it nearly impossible for low-income families to secure and retain stable housing and puts longtime homeowners at a much higher risk of displacement.”

Programs have been enacted that aim to boost the city’s affordable housing stock.

Take, for example, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’s mission to produce and protect $1 billion worth of affordable living options intown.

And the Beltline—notorious for driving up property values and taxes that displace people—recently announced a nearly $12 million affordable housing push, the largest in the project’s history.

Initiatives like that, however, might not be enough to outweigh the forces of development setting sights on many of Atlanta’s lower-income communities.

Developers recently filed plans to turn a rundown industrial site near the Bankhead MARTA Station into the next major mixed-use development.

And other long-neglected areas on the Westside and in Southwest Atlanta are now primed for major makeovers, many of which promise some affordable living units, but perhaps not enough to keep longtime residents planted.

“Meaningful progress will require buy-in and collaboration at all levels, including city and state government, the philanthropic and private sectors and, most importantly, residents,” the report says. “The collective response to these issues will determine the future identity and prosperity of Atlanta—a city with a rich civil rights legacy and immense potential for continued growth.”