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A catalyst for Westside development — but not yet

A new 280 acre park is currently under construction in an old quarry on the westside of Atlanta. It’s called Westside Park. When it opens this spring (that’s at least the target), it will be by far the largest park in the city. But already there are concerns that this investment in new public space could be triggering “rapid gentrification” in the surrounding area.

So earlier this month, the mayor’s office issued an executive order that put in place a 6-month moratorium on all new construction permits in the communities surrounding the park. The order read like this: “…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 objective is to avoid displacement. And since new development means change, this is a way to stop change. (Don’t you just hate when things go and change?) The problem, of course, is that a moratorium on new housing doesn’t stop change and it does nothing to address the desire to live next to this new amenity. It only stymies the supply of new housing to meet this demand. (It’s also incongruent with the park investment being marketed as a “catalyst for new development.”)

In fact, Joe Cortright (of City Observatory) and Jenny Schuetz (of the Brookings Institution) have both argued — either directly or indirectly — that the above move could actually increase displacement in the surrounding area; because the moratorium on new housing could simply redirect demand toward the existing housing stock. The order does seem to suggest that you can still renovate an existing property.

I wonder if any studies have been done on the externalities associated with temporary housing supply moratoriums. If so, I would be interested in reading them.

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