— Castleberry Hill opposes ‘park-for-hire’ surface parking lots around stadium | Saporta Report, 8/11/14
As we see often in Atlanta’s real estate market, the newest examples of what I call “good urbanism” are often beyond the affordability range for low-income people. It’s a conundrum: compact, walkable developments near transit and other amenities tend to have high housing costs.
At least as first…
Think about this: the old “drive until you qualify” idea usually entails going away from the more walkable places and into car-centric, sprawling suburbs to find the most affordable housing; which is convenient for those who have cars. But as Rebecca Burns found out in a report this year on the growing level of low-income people in Metro Atlanta’s suburbs, an increasing number of residents there can’t afford a car; they instead depend on what little transit and pedestrian infrastructure exists.
A recent article in Time also covered the issue:
Poverty in the U.S. has worsened in neighborhoods already considered to be poor, but it’s now becoming more prevalent in the nation’s suburbs, according to the Brookings report.
Is it time to think of walkability as a civil right? As a kind of social justice issue regarding mobility options for those who can’t drive?
When we build car-sprawl for the middle-class car owners of today, we’re also building environments that will be eventually devalued by the common trends of the real estate market and that will likely be housing the low-income populations of the future.
A new article in Governing, on the way poor neighborhoods in the US are experiencing the greatest rate of pedestrian deaths, mentions Metro Atlanta’s Buford highway as an example:
Brookhaven, Ga., is a well-to-do suburb on the northeast perimeter of Atlanta….Many of Brookhaven’s residents are educated and well-off, but parts of the city have undergone a demographic transformation in recent years. Over the past two decades, the city’s southernmost neighborhood saw an influx of lower-income residents, particularly Hispanics. Many live in apartment complexes along Buford Highway, a thoroughfare that ranks among the nation’s deadliest…With seven lanes of traffic and a 45 mph speed limit, motorists don’t slow down. Much of the highway is dimly lit and doesn’t have sidewalks.
The birth of car-centric suburban subdivisions was tied closely to the concept of exclusion — using zoning laws to establish enclaves for middle-class and wealthy home owner (read this excerpt from Ben Ross’ “Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism” for a good exploration of that subject).
Exclusionary zoning was a tactic that worked well (for a while, anyway), keeping low-income people separated from many suburban subdivisions. But generations later, poor populations — often the ones most in need of pedestrian infrastructure — have shifted into now-devalued suburban homes that were not built for pedestrian and mass-transit mobility. And long-time residents who are aging in place are now experiencing these car-dependent environments in a very different way as they begin to lose the ability to drive themselves.
It may be time to turn the tables on the exclusionary zoning ideas of the 20th century. Instead of the old practice of preventing pedestrian-focused, low-income housing and mixed-use developments from being built within car-sprawl, it might be time now to exclude car-centric forms from our development patterns.
— What exactly do you do here? | Walkable DFW