The Downtown Atlanta experience

Clockwise from top left:
- A vibrant scene with many people walking past the Flatiron Building, one side in the light and one in the shade, both sides filled with ground level stores;
- …while one block west, a woman walks under streetcar wires on a much more quiet street with almost no street retail;
- A man selling King of Pops popsicles to GSU students;
- …while directly across the street, a man digs through a trash can for food.

Downtown is always a mix. Vibrant streets a block away from strangely dead ones, and thriving businesses surrounded by homelessness and indignity.

Tags: atlanta

Bikes on Broad Street in Downtown Atlanta. We’re happy that GSU is back in session — the students bring so much street life.

Bikes on Broad Street in Downtown Atlanta. We’re happy that GSU is back in session — the students bring so much street life.

Tags: atlanta

Housing and transportation costs — as a percentage of income — are higher in sprawling metros like Atlanta
As a companion to my recent post “The affordability swindle: why living in sunbelt sprawl actually costs more" — here’s a great graphic from a post on Reuters’ Data Dive blog titled "The expense of sprawl.”
It shows the percentage of household income (that’s the horizontal metric) that’s spent on average, within each of these metro areas, on a combo of housing and transportation costs. And yes, it says “cities” but it means metros — pet peeve of mine. The blue part is housing and the green part is transpo.
Take a look at where sprawling places like Atlanta and Phoenix fall on the chart. On average, people in Metro Atlanta spend a higher percentage of wages on housing/transpo costs than people in more compact, walkable places like NYC.
Of course, you have to take into account that average wages in NYC are higher. But is it possible that those high wages are possible as a result of some innate benefit to local economies brought on by that compact, walkable environment? Could be.

Housing and transportation costs — as a percentage of income — are higher in sprawling metros like Atlanta

As a companion to my recent post “The affordability swindle: why living in sunbelt sprawl actually costs more" — here’s a great graphic from a post on Reuters’ Data Dive blog titled "The expense of sprawl.

It shows the percentage of household income (that’s the horizontal metric) that’s spent on average, within each of these metro areas, on a combo of housing and transportation costs. And yes, it says “cities” but it means metros — pet peeve of mine. The blue part is housing and the green part is transpo.

Take a look at where sprawling places like Atlanta and Phoenix fall on the chart. On average, people in Metro Atlanta spend a higher percentage of wages on housing/transpo costs than people in more compact, walkable places like NYC.

Of course, you have to take into account that average wages in NYC are higher. But is it possible that those high wages are possible as a result of some innate benefit to local economies brought on by that compact, walkable environment? Could be.

The Flatiron Building this evening, Downtown Atlanta

The Flatiron Building this evening, Downtown Atlanta

Tags: atlanta

Help save the historic TRIO LAUNDRY!

20 Hilliard St SE, Atlanta GA, 30312

The Trio Laundry Dry Cleaning Building was built in 1910. It is on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Martin Luther King Jr. Landmark District. Due to its brick construction, it was one of a very few buildings in this neighborhood that survived the Great Fire of 1917 that destroyed over 300 acres and left one-tenth of the city’s population homeless.

Most recently the building was occupied by the William H Borders Sr Comprehensive Aftercare Treatment Center - a substance abuse treatment and recovery pro- gram that helped several hundred men.

In 2009 the Atlanta Housing Authority purchased the building for $750,000 in federal tax dollars. They had no redevelopment plans for the building then and they still have no plans for it today - except to tear it down! Please contact Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed to let him know you want the demolition stopped!

email: mkreed@atlantaga.gov
office: 404.330.6023
more info: facebook.com/triolaundry
#save20hilliard

Hanging out on the roof, Downtown Atlanta.

The affordability swindle: why living in sunbelt sprawl actually costs more

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Sprawl apologists like Joel Kotkin like to trumpet the continuing population shift to sunbelt metros of the southern US as proof that people prefer to live in these car-centric places that are spread out far and wide — as opposed to compact, walkable cities.

Others believe that there’s a draw to sunbelt states because of pro-business, low-regulation policies that allow for better wages. New York Time columnist Paul Krugman recently wrote an excellent piece that counters that argument, pointing out that, though the population shift is undeniable:

[From 2000-2012] greater Atlanta’s population grew almost 27 percent, and greater Houston’s grew almost 30 percent. America’s center of gravity is shifting south and west.

…this shift to the sunbelt isn’t due to wages:

The average job in greater Houston pays 12 percent less than the average job in greater New York; the average job in greater Atlanta pays 22 percent less.

In other words, what the facts really suggest is that Americans are being pushed out of the Northeast (and, more recently, California) by high housing costs rather than pulled out by superior economic performance in the Sunbelt.

The other draw that sunbelt metros are assumed to have is lower costs of living due to more affordable housing. And though the houses themselves may be lower in price, a new study shows that overall living costs are actually higher in these sprawling, car-centric areas due to transportation spending. Kaid Benfield has the info here: How Transit, Walkability Help Make Cities More Affordable.

A quote from Benfield:

The least affordable cities when housing and transportation costs are combined and compared to typical household income turn out to be sprawling, Sun Belt cities:  Riverside, California; Miami; and Jacksonville.  Those three cities also have the study’s highest transportation costs for a typical household, because of high rates of driving and relatively low use of mass transit.

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So even though lower home prices are an obvious draw to sunbelt metros — and appear to be the sole reason behind the population shift — these prices aren’t low enough to truly provide a cost-of-living advantage over more walkable cities when we factor in the big costs of car-centric living.

Places that are more compact and walkable offer more transportation choices, rather than tying all residents to expensive car mobility. Additionally, they provide a built environment that gives multiple generations of residents the ability to get around without a car.

As I’ve written before, 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. It’s better to pass along walkable environments to future inhabitants of our places than saddling yet another generation with car dependency.

The answer to a more sustainable pattern of housing affordability is not to accept car-centric sprawl as inevitable — it’s to find ways to create lower housing costs inside walkable environments and encourage a population shift within that format.

Top photo of Atlanta suburbs by Flickr user Maik

Bottom photo of Atlanta traffic by Flickr user Craig Allen