By Rob Brawner, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership Executive Director
Many of us have heard the adage, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
This is truer than ever about the opportunity to align investments in parks and affordable housing in Atlanta. In the past few weeks, there have been unprecedented funding announcements supporting both parks and affordable housing:
- Last week, Governor Brian Kemp allocated approximately $20 million to improve parks, community centers, and sidewalks in the City of Atlanta – including $2.2 million for Enota Park, bringing us one big step closer to securing the funding needed to build the Atlanta BeltLine’s next park.
- Also last week, Atlanta City Council member Dustin Hillis, with nearly all his colleagues included as co-sponsors, introduced legislation to increase dedicated funding for parks by approximately $16 million annually – the largest new, yearly commitment to parks in Atlanta in half a century. This funding would be on top of the much-needed $2.8 million increase for the Department of Parks & Recreation in Mayor Dickens’ proposed budget for FY24 (pp. 233-245).
- Earlier this month, The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, Mayor Dickens’ administration, and Atlanta City Council announced they are working together to invest $300 million to address affordable housing in the city.
The proposed investment in park maintenance will provide the Parks Department with the staff and equipment they need to mow grass, pick up trash, prune trees, remove invasive plants, repair facilities, and install safety features at a much higher frequency than today. It will be invested equitably using data-driven decision-making and enable a standard of care in our parks that will help make Atlanta the best city in America to live and raise a child.
It also addresses a key concern expressed by donors, who want to have confidence that the City can take care of investments in parks. The dedicated funding for park maintenance can unlock additional philanthropic contributions, not only along the BeltLine but throughout the city. This support will be critical as the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership and many other non-profit organizations work with the City of Atlanta to achieve the ambitious land acquisition and park development goals laid out in the ActivateATL park and recreation master plan.
One of the many lessons we have learned from the BeltLine is that people want to live and work near quality parks and trails, as proven by nearly $9 billion of private development in the BeltLine planning area. This creates jobs and wonderful economic opportunities, but across the country and here in Atlanta, the demand to live near greenspace also leads to increased housing costs.
The historic $300 million for affordable housing provides resources that simply did not exist when Historic Fourth Ward Park and the Eastside Trail opened more than a decade ago. We cannot afford to miss the opportunity to align affordable housing investments with collective efforts to expand Atlanta’s park system so people of all income levels can enjoy the benefits parks provide. Fortunately, parks-related anti-displacement strategies (PRADS) can be used to mitigate displacement and preserve affordability.
The Atlanta BeltLine has demonstrated that public, private, and philanthropic funders are willing to co-invest in a bold vision and thoughtful plan. This was most evident when they jointly funded the completion of the full 22-mile mainline trail corridor through the Special Service District, BeltLine Tax Allocation District, philanthropic contributions, and federal grants – enabling construction to accelerate to ensure completion by 2030.
Similarly, we can layer investments with multiple partners, including the State of Georgia, which also recently invested in long-term affordability around the BeltLine. By aligning land acquisition strategies for parks and housing, we can ensure equitable access to greenspace for generations to come. As we do so, priority should be given to permanent affordability through tools like community land trusts, so the affordability created by these historic investments does not disappear after 15 or 30 years.
Led by a Mayor Dickens who emphasizes the importance of “drawing circles and not lines,” a City Council that is willing to seek long-term solutions, a generous donor community focused on Atlanta’s future, and active community organizations pushing for equitable development, we have an unprecedented opportunity to secure and align substantial resources to deliver a best-in-class park system surrounded by mixed-income communities. Atlantans 20 years from now will thank us for planting this tree.
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Affordable housing is nothing but a scam be there is nothing affordable about them.
The fact that there are thousands of homeless people in the city of Atlanta can attest to that fact.76% of homeless people are disabled in the city of Atlanta.
Now I have nothing against the immigrants trying going for the betterment of their lives but the money each state is receiving from the federal government for housing and other purposes for refugees these funds and programs should be given to the homeless citizens first.
Charity starts at home!!!!
I am a disabled homeless person in metro Atlanta and I will never and have not received half of the assistance given to immigrants.
I know if I feel like a refugee in my country and community then the people who shares my similar curium stance must be feeling the same way.
The Republican Party wants to place people like me in a concentration camp but offer home opportunities to them. This is why hate is growing in our communities across the country because our country doesn’t provide enough for their own but are always offering charity.
They should learn charity starts at home!!
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