Friday, November 2, 2018

Redlight The Gulch Coalition Weighs in on Norfolk Southern Ultimatum

November 2, 2018

Norfolk Southern’s CEO says that unless his company can make a big profit on its land in the Gulch, it will not consolidate staff from Norfolk, VA to Atlanta.

There is no justification for throwing a Gulch public subsidy — variously put at $1.9 billion and $1.44 billion — at an 850-job move.

The typical incentive from the City for that number of jobs is $850,000 to $2.5 million. That’s Million with an M, not Billion with a B. Some companies do not choose to extract any incentives when moving to the city.

The public cost of the Gulch scheme is on the order of one thousand times the incentive justified for the Norfolk Southern jobs.

By contrast, Blackrock announced last week that they are creating 1,000 new jobs in the city. They did not require billions in subsidy. Like Atlanta residents, they were also unfazed by the Gulch. Like all the other companies moving to and expanding in Atlanta over this decade, Blackrock is coming for our talent, our universities, our airport and our standard of living.

We also remind residents that Norfolk Southern did Atlanta no favors when they sold their stretch of the future Beltline to a developer for $25m, which forced the city to $65m — vastly more than if Norfolk had waited and sold it to the city directly.

We call upon Council Members to resist absurd last-minute arguments and bullying. The Gulch scheme would squander future revenues desperately needed to run our city and schools, and to support housing affordability.

Redlight the Gulch on November 5!

URGENT ACTION: Redlight The Gulch!

URGENT ACTION: This Monday City Council will vote to approve or deny the Gulch development plan and we need to show up in force to demand that they VOTE NO! Join us for a #RedlightTheGulch rally before the vote. Then we will pack the house at the City Council meeting and make our message clear: we must redlight the Gulch! 


The proposed Gulch development would be a MAJOR loss to our communities: Mayor Bottoms wants to sell part of downtown Atlanta to billionaire developers who are known slumlords in Los Angeles. The public would lose at least $1.9 billion in taxes only to receive $100 million at most back in benefits, at most. Plus, there would be ZERO public ownership. The City has felt our pressure and made a few changes to the deal, but it's not enough. As the vote on the deal approaches, we need to apply pressure now more than ever.

Learn more about the #RedlightTheGulch campaign here. 
Rally FB Event Link Here
Want to take action before the vote on Monday? Call City Council members and demand they #RedlightTheGulch.

Suggested Script: "Hello, I am an Atlanta resident  and I am urging you to VOTE NO on the Gulch development plan this Monday. The plan would be a HUGE loss to residents and prioritizes billionaire developers over the people of Atlanta. Thank you."

The numbers to call are below:

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Redlight The Gulch Coalition Responds to Mayor/CIM's Revised Gulch Deal

Tak Action: Housing Justice League will be holding a community canvass to educate Atlanta residents this Saturday at 12:30pm. Click here for details.

Sunday, September 30, 2018



1. Public cost is 55 times the public benefit. This is a grossly disproportionate cost/benefit in CIM’s favor. Council has done well to hold it. This deal is so terrible that Council now needs to walk away from it. You don’t negotiate when the gap is so enormous between what the billionaires are demanding from the public and what their scheme is worth to the public

 2. Public cost is about $2.5Bn at 2018 prices, of which $2Bn is property tax and $0.5bn in sales tax. In return, public benefits are only worth about $45mm. Details are broken out below. 

3. When the public is putting in as much as 50% of the cost to develop a private, commercial project, the public should own 40% of it. Instead, we will own nothing. The only explanation for this grotesque imbalance of advantage is CIM’s Abject Greed.

 4. The numbers. Property tax on a $5bn project when it’s complete - in 2032, per developer’s schedule - would be $90mm / yr. APS (the schools) would be losing out on $45mm / yr and the city and county $22.5mm / yr each. 

5. Despite all the smoke from the project’s boosters, this lost property tax really IS a cost to the public. Because if offices, hotels etc. are NOT built in a tax-free Gulch, they will be built in taxable parts of town, such as Tech Square, Midtown, S Downtown, Atlantic Station, Buckhead and around the Beltline. If CIM does not get this deal, the demand for office space, etc. will be met by developers in places where new construction pays taxes. In other words, this Gulch scheme ‘cannibalizes’ a massive amount of commercial growth and deprives the city and schools of future revenues for 30 years.

6. The same is true of the sales tax. This scheme would short the city and the state of some $500mm at 2018 prices thru 2048. Retail sales demand is not going to be created by putting stores in the Gulch. Those sales are going to happen somewhere in town, and the only question is whether they pay tax to the state and the general fund or not. Again the Gulch scheme would ‘cannibalize’ or displace retail activity in town and rob the state and city of tax revenues needed to pay for public services. So the total revenue loss IS $2.5 Billion. That is over $5,000 per man, woman and child resident in the city. It is equivalent to a $20,000 donation or more from every family of four in Atlanta to the billionaire Ressler brothers. 

7. The public benefits that have been dribbled out amount to around $45mm. The different cash funds are easy to add up: $42mm (though with no guarantee they’ll be spent to create real community benefit). The 200 housing units affordable at 80% AMI are worth only about $3mm, because CIM can sell them off after 3 years as rentals. CIM could sell the 200 units at prices for which a buyer would need an income 20% higher than the area median. By definition, that’s not affordable. Forget the claim that there might be some extra units for low-income folks: that’s only if AHA pays for them, which means it costs CIM nothing. 

8. The hard sell for this deal pretends that it brings 37,000 jobs to town. That is nonsense. Employers bring jobs to town – over 40,000 new jobs have moved here in the past 6 years – NCR, Worldpay, Honeywell, Anthem, Kaiser and so on. They locate here for our competitive talent, universities and airport. Office towers do not bring jobs here. (If they did, we’d have had no unemployment in the great recession, because we sure had masses of empty office towers, including the biggest - Bank of America Plaza.) So the scheme does not bring one single job here. CIM is betting that the city will continue to attract employers to fill the huge office towers that they are planning to construct. But this scheme does nothing to attract those company relocations. In fact, if Council allows this crazily one-sided deal, smart company executives will question the city’s financial responsibility. They’ll wonder if a city too busy to think can be trusted to provide good
schools and public services for their employees.

 9. Similarly the CIM sales pitch takes credit for 1800 construction jobs. But office towers are going to be built in the city to meet employer demand. So the same construction jobs will be here, whether those offices are built in the Gulch or in S Downtown and elsewhere. Handing over a $2.5bn subsidy will not result in more offices being built than are needed - or more construction jobs.

 10. The final arm-twist on Council has been a Norfolk Southern deal. NS wants us to give this enormous subsidy to CIM so that NS can sell Gulch land to CIM at a big profit. There’s nothing in that for the public. But NS might move 1,000 HQ people here in a consolidation. To justify a $2.5bn subsidy, we’d need not 1,000 jobs but about 700,000 jobs! That’s around three times the entire number of jobs in the city. It’s also 14 times the size of Amazon’s HQ2, for those who still imagine HQ2 will choose Atlanta.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Darlington Tenants Fight as They Face Displacement

Monday, September 17,  at the Darlington Apartment Complex in Buckhead tenants and community allies held a rally to shine a light on their inhumane treatment by landlord Trace McCreary of Varden Capital Properties who purchased the longtime affordable complex a year ago.

At the time of the purchase tenants were told they would finally receive the renovations which where decades overdue only to be told in late august that they would all be forced to vacate the property indefinitely.

Since the time of the 60 day notice tenants were given in August the AC has been shut off and there have been four fires inside the complex. “There is no peace for us , days without hot water to bathe , laundry machines that destroys our clothes , & a Owner who would allow kids in this building to have to go to sleep in puddles of sweat from no Air. This is Not Fair , This is not Right , This is not Justice !” stated Darlington tenant LeBraunte Frost.

This kind of property flipping is nothing new to Varden Capital CEO Trace McCreary who apparently left Wall Street after the financial crash to focus on building wealth off the crisis the left 11 million Americans without a home. So far Varden Capital has purchased around 20k units in the South almost all of which are occupied affordable units which he then flips mostly luxury displacing current residents.

At this point residents simply want support identifying affordable housing in the communities they live and work in which has been a major challenge.

Atlanta is experiencing a perfect storm for mass displacement. With 95% of everything built since 2012 qualifying as luxury housing and a loss of 5% of affordable housing stock every year since 2012 we may be experiencing the largest displacement of long term residents in Atlanta history.       “ For those of us who live in the few affordable housing available in the city we find ourselves displaced with the race for newer properties and affordable properties renovating to keep up”, stated Darlington tenant Raymond Bushby. 

You can take action!


Jennifer Eid, City Council Representive, District 6: (404) 330-6049

Matt Westmoreland, Post 2 At Large City Council: (404) 330-6302

Michael Julian Bond, Post 1 At Large City Council: (404) 330-6770

Keisha Lance Bottoms, Mayor: (404) 330-6100


“I am calling to express my great concern for the forced displacement of tenants from the Darlington. What will you be doing to ensure ALL tenants are relocated to safe, decent, affordable housing? What will be doing to ensure that this mass eviction events like this are no longer acceptable in Atlanta?”

Links tosome of yesterday's press coverage: 

Stand with the Transit Equity Coalition, and help us demand a fair MARTA Expan

MARTA is finally expanding. But for the most part, efforts at collecting public input through the More MARTA program have been relatively low-key – it’s safe to say that the majority of Atlantans have no idea that this initiative is underway. Which means that right now it is unlikely that the final expansion plan will reflect the true wants and needs of Atlanta’s commuters.

In 2016, Atlanta voters approved a half-cent sales tax to fund the expansion of MARTA. The tax is expected to generate $2.5 billion over 40 years. Since the tax was passed, MARTA has been fine-tuning a list of potential bus and rail projects to improve service in various parts of the city.

One of the projects that is garnering the most attention is the Clifton Corridor Light Rail Transit (LRT) project, a streetcar that will link Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to Lindbergh Center Station in Buckhead. The issue with the emphasis on the Clifton Corridor Project is that Emory University and the CDC were annexed into the City of Atlanta in 2017 – after the sales tax was passed. It is unfair that this project, which will receive $500 million of the $2.5 billion in MARTA funds, is being prioritized over the communities in south and southwest Atlanta that have been asking for improved MARTA service for years.

According to the More MARTA program’s questionable survey results, two more proposed projects that are on track to become a reality soon involve building a light rail along segments of the Beltline. The Atlanta Beltline has become the city’s main driver of gentrification as it causes property values to skyrocket. Though the forces behind the Beltline initially promised that the project would lead to the development of 5,600 units of affordable housing, they are far behind where they should be. The More MARTA program’s prioritization of a Beltline streetcar over transit improvements in south Atlanta communities is a slap in the face to the neighborhoods that are bracing themselves for Beltline-generated displacement. The More MARTA program should not spend a single cent on the Beltline rail project until the Beltline fulfills its commitment to affordable housing.

The Transit Equity Coalition is an alliance of civil rights organizations, faith-based groups, and neighborhood associations who are working to hold MARTA accountable to the true needs of the community. Our members are:

American Friends Service Committee
Atlanta NAACP
Concerned Black Clergy
Dekalb NAACP
Housing Justice League
Our Truth, Our Power – The South Atlanta Listening Project
United Youth Adult Conference

We are asking everyone who supports MARTA equity to call their Atlanta city councilmember and demand that they put pressure on MARTA to:
  1. Cut the Clifton Corridor rail project
  2. Expand the west rail line from Hamilton E. Holmes station to Fulton Industrial, and the east rail line to Stonecrest along I-20.
  3. Refrain from funding a streetcar on the Beltline until the Beltline begins to live up to its affordable housing promises.

The Atlanta City Council can be reached at (404) 330-6030.

More information about the More MARTA project can be found here:
Like the Transit Equity Coalition on Facebook:

Foluke Nunn
Youth Organizer

American Friends Service Committee

Monday, September 17, 2018

Peoplestown Residents Win Retrial After Presenting New Evidence

Peoplestown Residents Returned to Court With  Evidence of City’s Unlawful Use of Eminent Domain to Displace Longterm Residents of Peoplestown


Peoplestown residents returned to court on Wednesday Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. before Judge Schwall seeking a rehearing based on newly discovered evidence.  That evidence, an email authored by a City of Atlanta engineer, establishes that the City of Atlanta knew, BEFORE it demolished 21 of 27 homes on the block, that it did not need the property for its proposed flood mitigation project.  This email was produced by the City in response to a discovery request 3 days after Judge Schwall ruled that the City needed the property.  The delayed production of this highly relevant information is consistent with the culture at City Hall that has prompted the on-going investigation by the GBI.

Despite having produced more than 200,000 documents, the City has failed to produce evidence rebutting this internal Department of Watershed communication.  Tanya Washington, a Peoplestown resident,  said, “Had I gone to court and been presented with credible evidence that my house was needed for the City’s plans I would take the loss and move on.  I wouldn’t be happy with the situation but at least I would know that there was a real reason for taking my home. But when a City employee documents that the homes are my block aren't necessary and there is NO evidence to the contrary  I’m ready to go all the way to the Supreme Court for justice, and I SHALL NOT BE MOVED!

The outcome in these cases will create precedence that will either protect residents against these types of land grabs by the City or it will give the green light to city officials, authorizing them to steal peoples’ homes without following the law.  The residents are asking "Housing Mayor" Keisha Lance Bottoms to drop the lawsuits against them.

From Tanya Washington:
"The Judge ordered the City of Atlanta to return to Court on Oct. 29 at 2:30 with the former City of Atlanta engineer who documented the lack of "technical data" and "engineering validation" to justify the taking of homes on our block. We are looking forward to this hearing which will establish that THE CITY OF ATLANTA'S USE OF EMINENT DOMAIN IS ILLEGAL!
This is a VICTORY that proves 3 incontrovertible truths: WHEN YOU FIGHT YOU WIN, COMMUNITY IS A VERB & COURAGE IS CONTAGIOUS! Thank you for standing with us!"

Right now as more residents in Washington Park, Vine City, and English ave we are asking folks to continue to call the Mayor and ask her not to use eminent domain to forceably take peoples homes for development projects.

Friday, July 13, 2018

From Atlanta to DC

 Earlier this month we had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC with tenant leaders from the Housing Justice League for the National Alliance of HUD Tenants(NAHT) national convention. This has been our fourth year attending the conference which is a gathering of HUD tenant leaders from around the country along with tenant/community organizers and representatives from ally organizations. The conference is an excellent opportunity for tenants to share and develop strategies to preserve, improve, and expand affordable housing in their complexes and communities. Here in Atlanta we've learned so much over the years from the amazing HUD tenants that helped form NAHT, several of them have organized such strong tenant associations that they have actually collectively negotiated negotiated with complex owners to purchase the building they live in.

This years was year was a highlight for us as both Housing Justice League and American Friends Service Committee received awards in recognition of our victories over the last year.

This years was also special because we had the opportunity to join the Poor Peoples Campaign for their day of action. Many of us marched to HUD and witnessed over a dozen committed faith and community leaders block the doors of HUD's office demanding better living conditions and more peopled centered policies. It was truly inspiring to be surrounded by so many people with such deep commitment to real economic justice.

The following day NAHT held a rally against Trump's proposed HUD cuts on the steps of the MLK memorial statue. If passed Trump's HUD budget would include deep cuts and much stricter work requirements. The cut's impact would put over 5k Georgia families at risk or homelessness and rent hikes that would be difficult to survive for those on fixed income. From there we went to visit congressional members and lobbied against the proposed cuts before saying our goodbyes and heading back to Atlanta.

Conferences like NAHT are important. They give us the opportunity to compare notes, inspire and be inspired by each other, to celebrate our work, explore how to more effectively, and leave with our imaginations on fire!

Big thanks to all who contributed to Housing Justice Leagues tenant training crowd source fundraiser as it helped cover the cost of three tenant leaders attending the conference!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Our truth, Our Power – The South Atlanta Listening Project

The growing number of luxury high-rises and trendy restaurants may give the impression of increasing prosperity, however Atlanta continues to be one of the worst cities in the country for income equality and economic mobility.

As the city enjoys a period of growth in several different industries, it is apparent that it is catering to the wants of newcomers and business interests- the voices of groups without the resources and influence to make themselves noticed are strikingly absent.

Young people who were born and raised in Atlanta’s poor communities make up one of the groups that is talked over and spoken for the most. Younger generations are almost always left out of discussions about the city’s future, even though they will play a major role in shaping its future. Those of us who come from the ‘hood are often viewed as part of Atlanta’s problem, instead of potential contributors to the solution.

We’re tired of being written off as “thugs” and ignored by the leadership of this city. We’re tired of being told that our problems will miraculously disappear once we “pull our pants up”. We’re tired of everyone trying to tell us what we should do, but rarely asking us what we want for ourselves.

We believe that we can make our voices heard, and work to build an Atlanta that prioritizes our interests and needs.

Our first step will be to conduct a listening project, so that we can give young people in Atlanta a chance to share their opinions about their city. A listening project is a series of interviews done with the goal of solving problems and helping communities realize the power they have. We will be interviewing people ages 17 to 25 who live in South and Southwest Atlanta (the east side of Zone 4, the north side of Zone 3, and the very south side of Zone 1). We want them to share as much as they can about their experiences living in their communities, so that we can paint a picture of the most major issues from many different perspectives.

Our ultimate goal is to bring the young people of Atlanta together, to build the confidence and skills that we need to stand up for our communities. We will use what we learn from the interviews to guide the next steps that we take to address some of the most pressing problems.

Most importantly, we need people who live in Atlanta’s disinvested communities to be at the forefront of this effort.

There are several organizations that are already providing crucial services for young people in Atlanta’s low income neighborhoods. Their presence and the work that they do are much needed and valued. The specific purpose of this project is to spark a movement to create a more just and equitable Atlanta— led by young people, for young people. We want it to be a chance for us to contribute directly to meaningful social change that we define on our own terms.

It’s easy to look at the shootings, the poverty, and the police violence and think that that’s just how life goes in the ‘hood. But we refuse to accept that things can’t be different. Every one of us has the ability to fight for a better world. First we must speak our truth, then we can claim our power.

If you would like to volunteer with us, please click here
To sign up for an interview, please click here

By the AFSC Youth Organizing Project: Foluke Nunn, Brenquavious Johnson

Thursday, May 3, 2018

ATL Tenants Fight Back Against Trump's Proposed HUD Cuts

On International Worker’s Day (Tuesday May 1) Housing Justice League members and supporters rallied  outside Senator David Perdue’s office at a main intersection in Buckhead to protest Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and demand the senator vote against Trump’s 2019 budget proposal that includes the slashing of HUD programs across the board. The rally was part of a National Day of Action organized by the National Alliance of HUD Tenants (NAHT) of which HJL is a member. The full budget proposal represents a brutal attack on the poor that will only contribute to inequality, racism, and the war economy. According to NAHT, the $6.8 billion in proposed cuts would be the deepest cuts in HUD’s history. Deborah Arnold, a community activist with Housing Justice League and NAHT Vice President commented, “Trump wants to cut taxes for the richest of the rich, paid for by raising rents on the poorest of the poor. 80% of HUD tenant households are led by women. We, too, demand that Congress reject Trump’s vicious assault on the women, children, elderly and disabled people who live in HUD housing.” 

If approved, program cuts would leave even more people in Georgia and across the US at high risk of death, without basic necessities such as housing, food, and health care in order to give tax cuts to corporations and the extremely wealthy. Trump’s cuts would pay for a $1.5 trillion tax cut for the 1% and corporations, huge hikes in the Pentagon budget, including first strike nuclear weapons, and the border Wall. Nationally, the cuts would raise rents on nearly 1.8 million families and 3 million children receiving rental assistance, squeezing even more rent from poor communities caught in discriminatory and exploitative systems including the housing market, education, and criminal justice system. In Georgia, the cuts would affect nearly 60,000 households. Rents would be raised by increasing the share of income that households must pay in rent from 30 to 35 percent, eliminating income deductions for households that have high out-of-pocket expenses (such as childcare), and raising minimum rents for households with little or no income, most with incomes below half of the poverty line. 

Trump’s budget proposes to cut 200,000 people from Section 8 Vouchers next year – 10% of the total – and an astounding 37% from Public Housing operating budgets, which are already severely underfunded.  The budget also repeals Section 8 Enhanced Vouchers, which would immediately displace more than 30,000 families and seniors across the nation. 

Additionally the plan would give HUD unlimited power to impose additional rent increases, letting it drastically cut rent subsidies for low-income Americans without seeking Congress’ approval. HUD says it aims to encourage work among rental assistance recipients, but key aspects of the plan would, if anything, discourage work, by raising households’ rent to 35 percent of their income, which would increase rents more drastically as earnings rise. The plan includes a proposal to let agencies and certain subsidized housing owners condition rental assistance on work requirements, while the budget proposal simultaneously includes deep cuts to job training programs. 

Throughout the rally,  HUD tenants and supporters explained to the crowd why they oppose any cuts to HUD. Mary Porter, an activist and resident at Veranda at Auburn Point, a senior HUD-insured public housing complex in Sweet Auburn commented, “We live on fixed incomes. We cannot afford for our rents to be raised. We cannot continue to be mistreated by the government of the United States of America. We deserve affordable housing. This is not just about people who live in affordable housing. Those of you who don’t live in affordable housing, and who don’t have to live in affordable housing should care about those of us who do.” 

Protesters emphasized that the budget changes will not only affect the most vulnerable people in Georgia, but their entire communities as well. “You can’t address poverty if you don’t address affordable housing. We are in a housing crisis in Atlanta. All we’re doing is increasing homelessness,” commented Karimah Dillard, a student of social work and community advocate. When I think about the social cost of raising rent, it goes so far beyond whether or not I’m able to make my rent payment. We’re talking about can I eat? Can I afford my medicine? Transportation? If I can’t drive to work, I will lose my job.” 

Following the rally, protesters entered the Terminus 100 Building to request a meeting with Senator Perdue. Due to Perdue’s office being located 26 stories up on a “closed floor,” only a small group managed to get into the elevator leading to the correct floor. They were able to hold a brief meeting with Perdue’s State Director, Ben Fry, to explain their concerns and request a meeting at a later date with the Senator. “The government will subsidize corporate America, but it won’t subsidize poor people, or low-income people, or the working class community. Everything that’s being proposed seems to be going against the working lower-class people,” explained Columbus Ward, long-term Peoplestown resident and HJL member.We want our representatives to understand the negative impact these cuts will have on the people who elected them. Alison Johnson, another Peoplestown resident and member of HJL added, all of our public housing has been taken away. Not only are we asking for no HUD cuts, we’re asking for money to be put back into the HUD budget. We can’t afford to live the way we are living today. There is nowhere for us to go. We are here today to ask respectfully that David Perdue listen to the constituents that put him in office. We cannot tolerate or take another HUD cut.” 

An attack like this, added to an already severe housing crisis in which over half of renters are paying more than 30% of their income in rent (the definition of affordability), and people of color are being hit the hardest, makes an urgent situation even more dire. Housing Justice League is supporting tenant organizing through regular monthly tenant trainings and ongoing support, in working to build political force among a large renter class that is already shifting political consciousness and power across the United States and internationallyHul’yah Yasah, a tenant organizer at the HUD-subsidized Briarcliff Apartments commented, we rise that we may be a voice for the voiceless. We no longer have to look to you to make it right. Our presence is what makes it right.”