Mayor’s executive order puts moratorium on new construction near Westside Park

A rendering of the future Westside Park.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has pumped the brakes on the rapidly developing area around Westside Park by placing a  180-day moratorium on new building permits.

The mayor issued the executive order on Monday directing the Office of Buildings and the Office of Zoning and Development to “refuse to accept new applications for rezonings, building permits for new construction, land disturbance permits, special use permits, special administrative permits, subdivisions, replattings, and lot consolidations for non-public projects.”

The moratorium applies to  the neighborhoods surrounding Westside Park – including Grove Park, Rockdale and Knight Park/Howell Station – in an effort to address rapid gentrification occurring in the area, according to a media statement from the mayor’s office.

“A key pillar to the Administration’s comprehensive affordable housing plan is ensuring long-term residents are not priced out of the neighborhoods they have built,” Bottoms said. “We know that every permit triggers some form of change in these communities, and it is of the utmost importance that development is carried out in a deliberate, fair and thoughtful manner.”

The moratorium will expire in 180 days and will not affect existing building permits or building permits required for emergency work.

During the moratorium, the mayor’s office said it will engage in a “robust community planning effort,” which will include all relevant city departments and agencies.

Formerly the Bellwood Quarry, Westside Park sits along the Atlanta BeltLine and will become the city’s largest park and include a massive backup reservoir in the old quarry pit.

The communities impacted by the moratorium can be seen in a map at this link.

  1. This executive order is a ham-handed move on the part of the mayor. It does nothing to stop gentrification of the west side; and further, it does not address affordable housing. It punishes only the owners of the smaller homes that need an addition to reach their full value.

    Money continues to pour into redeveloping Atlanta’s core. Nothing will stop that. The rest of the West Side will go on improving around these restricted areas, and the resulting imbalance in values (for the smaller homes) will build up like water behind a dam.

    This artificial imbalance will make it easier to take advantage of owners of smaller homes:

    “You know Ms. Seller, back before the Mayor made it impossible to add square footage to your 800sf home, I could’ve offered you $80,000 for your property. But now that it’s going to remain an 800sf home for the foreseeable future, I can only offer you $40,000 because the house doesn’t have the square footage necessary to make it into a three-bedroom, two-bath home.”

    [For you new to residential real estate redevelopment, here is a common rule of thumb: You need at least 1200sf to make a nice three-bedroom, two-bathroom home that will sell at the top of the retail market. An 800sf home, even 1000sf, is not ideal, and usually requires an addition, or even having to tear the house down and build new, to bring that parcel to full market value.]

    As soon as the City realizes it’s mistake and reverses this bone-headed executive order, all those little homes bought at an artificial discount will get re-sold at a huge profit for the acquisitions teams who leveraged this executive order against the hapless homeowners.

    Because look: People gonna sell, market up or market down, executive order or no executive order. When the market is hot, sellers see dollar signs, especially owners of homes in need of major renovations or repairs, of which there are a TON in the West Side. Nobody is pressuring any of these owners to sell. They get old and want to move out, or they need cash, or they don’t have the money or knowledge necessary to renovate their homes themselves, and they decide to take what they can get and move out. No one is holding a gun to their heads, and in many cases, they’re ecstatic that they can get what they can for a home they thought was worthless!

    Imagine the face of the next seller of a small home that I talk to when I inform them that it was Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms who artificially stunted the progress of appreciation in their sub-market, cutting all the offers for their property in half because the city won’t let permit the master suite addition needed to reach full market value.

    HEY! City of Atlanta, here’s a freebie: If you want to increase affordable housing, stop trying heavy-handed moves to kill the market that tempts sellers into selling. There are better ways:

    1. Readdress zoning regulations.
    2. Put a moratorium on tax increases for legacy homeowners.
    3. Create robust tax incentives for developing affordable multi-family housing.
    4. Expand public transportation.
    5. Approve more retirement communities.
    6. Beef up the police force.

    I would suggest to the Mayor that she step back from this overreaching executive order and put a little more thought into which actions she decides to take to increase affordable housing on the West Side and keep legacy homeowners in their homes.

    We in the investment community are not cowed by this order; we find it an amusing admonition of the powerlessness of the Mayor’s office, and more darkly, there are those among us will simply leverage this executive order against the very people the Mayor is trying to help.

    Keisha: Look for a better way. For the good of everyone, the market and the City.

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