By John Schaffner
At-large Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who is a Buckhead resident, told members of the Buckhead Business Association Dec. 6 that the high rate of home foreclosures in Atlanta’s Southside and Westside neighborhoods should be a major concern to business and civic leaders in Buckhead as well.
“There are indications the problem is creeping northward and closing in on Buckhead from the south,” she said in her typical rapid-fire presentation style to about 70 attending the BBA’s weekly morning breakfast meeting.
“We all as responsible neighbors need to be concerned about what happens all over the city,” she stated.
As a city councilmember, Norwood has worked on numerous housing-related issues and is actively promoting the livability and marketability of Atlanta’s Intown Neighborhoods in the city’s Southside and Westside. She said these areas represent half the city’s land mass.
“With median home prices in Atlanta still at record highs, affordable housing can be found within the city if you know where to look,” Norwood pointed out. She said there presently are 1,300 homes on the market for under $160,000, which she said offered opportunities for individuals who otherwise would not be able to afford home ownership.
She said her goal is to return 5,000 homes to being owner occupied.
“We have the opportunity to get people in homes who could not have afforded that before because of the present reduced home prices,” she said.
Addressing what she indicated might be a stigma with some people about homes in Atlanta’s Southside and Westside, Norwood pointed out the homes in many of those neighborhoods were developed at the same time as homes in Morningside, Virginia-Highland and Midtown. “The neighborhoods on the west side of Atlanta mirror those on the east,” she stated.
She said the BeltLine is going to shift a lot of development to the south side of Atlanta. “There is still a lot of land that has not been redeveloped for 50 years,” she added.
To highlight neighborhoods that remain affordable for many families and individuals, Norwood has produced a short 16-minute documentary, entitled “Threads Between Us,” which addresses the availability of affordable housing in Atlanta, as well as Atlanta Redevelopment in general. It showcases the Oakland City community in Southwest Atlanta.
Produced in collaboration with the Neighborhood Housing Coalition, the documentary gives potential home buyers a perspective on the local housing market and ways of taking advantage of low home prices within the city. The documentary can be seen on City Channel 26 and on People TV Channel 24. The video can also be viewed on the Atlanta City Council website by going to www.atlantaga.gov and click on “City Council.”
The Neighborhood Housing Coalition is a group of concerned citizens in Atlanta who want to improve the quality of life in the city’s neighborhoods. The NHC allows citizens to become ambassadors for their community and to provide tours and/or presentations showcasing their community and welcoming new residents.
“Threads Between Us emphasizes the importance of knitting back together our neighborhoods—a defining entity for our city,” said Norwood.
Norwood’s efforts have assisted the city’s Affordable Housing Initiative in bringing awareness to the affordability of homes that have been caught in fraud and have been returned to the banks. Almost 100 homes have been purchased in Atlanta’s neighborhoods through the City’s Home Atlanta Program.
The councilwoman has been an active in initiatives designed to crackdown on mortgage fraud in Atlanta’s communities, and to reclaim these properties for owner-occupancy.
Norwood’s strategy to bring further attention to the opportunities available for affordable housing within the city is: “Talk to businesses, large employers, and support neighborhood ambassadors in making presentations.” She indicated the BBA was an excellent forum for getting the message out.
Norwood was asked if she plans to run for mayor of the city of Atlanta next year. She indicated she had not made a decision about that but was testing the waters to see if there was community support across the whole city for a campaign by her.
“You don’t have to get out there leading the band if the band is not with you,” she said, adding, “I don’t want to be in front of a parade unless I have a parade.”