Blighted: A Story of People, Politics, and an American Housing Miracle

By: Margaret Stagmeier

Meeting Date: December 6, 2023 6:30 PM

“Blighted” is a book about the effort to create safe, decent, affordable housing for the working poor, told from an unusual perspective: that of a well-motivated landlord. It focuses on the purchase and renovation of a large apartment complex in south Atlanta.

The “big ideas” for Urban Atlanta:

  • Local and regional leaders should see the opportunity that large apartment complexes offer for solving affordable housing problems. There are many apartment communities in Urban Atlanta built in the 1960s and 1970s. If maintained and managed well, these aging complexes could be great places for families with modest incomes. If allowed to deteriorate, they will become enormous liabilities.
  • The key is to attract good landlords and patient investors. State and local leaders should use incentives, regulation and recognition to encourage investment in aging apartment complexes while insisting on good property management.
  • Schools are deeply influenced by those living nearby; apartments are deeply influenced by the schools their residents’ children attend. This is a clear opportunity for collaboration and mutual benefit. We need principals and landlords to learn how, working together, they could help solve each other’s problems.
  • As the book makes clear, governments themselves do some things that push rents higher, from delays in permitting and glacial eviction processes to building codes and other regulations that do not keep tenants safer but add to cost. Beginning with local governments, we need leaders to work with good landlords on strengthening the good regulations, ending bad ones, and speeding up permitting and legal processes that push rents higher. Eventually, we need state and federal governments to do the same.

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