Axios Atlanta

Picture of the Atlanta skyline.

Happy Tuesday, Atlanta. Some of us were hoping for a little more snow.

🌤️ Today's weather: The sun greets us today. Expect a high of 50.

Today's newsletter is 939 words — a 3.5-minute read

1 big thing: 🏘️ The East Lake effect

Illustration of an upward pointing arrow made from the top of a house
Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A new study of the effort that transformed East Lake from a pocket of poverty into a mixed-income success story says that the initiative improved home values, schools and crime in the east Atlanta community.

Why it matters: The East Lake Foundation has “directly invested or leveraged” $600 million since 1995 to replace East Lake Meadows with mixed-income housing, open Atlanta’s first charter school and attract a YMCA and Publix, the community’s first grocery store.

Catch up quick: In 1995, real-estate developer Tom Cousins created the foundation and teamed with community developers and nonprofits to break up concentrated poverty in the community.

Details: Using a new model to analyze the initiative’s effects, Brett Theodos of the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, says East Lake’s Black population decreased by 22 percent, slightly more than its white population increased, from the 1970s to recent years.

  • “The share of residents holding bachelor’s degrees increased 21 percent, the share of households living below the federal poverty level decreased 18 percent, average annual incomes increased $36,000, and average home values increased $153,000,” Theodos writes.

Big picture: Done well, place-based initiatives like East Lake aim to connect residents to jobs, improve schools, and foster a safe community — and keep legacy residents in place.

If the efforts miss the mark, run out of resources or fail to gain traction, they can erode residents’ trust and fuel cynicism in government and nonprofits, Theodos writes. But they can also spur gentrification and displacement.

Read the full story.

2. 🏦 Study: 20% of Black mortgage applicants in Ga. rejected

Data: Zillow analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA); Map: Baidi Wang/Axios
Data: Zillow analysis of data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA); Map: Baidi Wang/Axios

Mortgage applications submitted by Black people in Georgia were rejected nearly two times the rate of their white counterparts in 2020, according to Home Mortgage Disclosure Act data analyzed by Zillow.

Why it matters: Home ownership is the primary way to build wealth, and Black Americans have historically been shut out of this opportunity by systemic racism and segregation policies.

By the numbers: According to Zillow’s report, 20.1% of Black mortgage applications in Georgia were denied in 2020, compared to 11.7% of white applications.

What they’re saying: Dan Immergluck, a professor at the Urban Studies Institute at Georgia State University’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, said discriminatory housing policies that stretch back decades, including redlining and denying FHA loans to Black borrowers, allowed white families to build wealth in the mid-20th century.

Zoom out: Across the country, the denial rate for Black applicants was 19.8% versus 10.7% for white applicants.

Black applicants were denied due to credit, including a combination of poor or lack of credit, Zillow’s report states. Black people generally don’t have access to traditional financial resources, which Zillow says “contributes to poor credit health.”

Immergluck says legacy discrimination in the housing market could be remedied with down payment assistance programs for Black homebuyers using initiatives like community development financial institution funds.

Go deeper: Race and housing in America

Read the full story.

3. 🚫 School board members oppose bill banning critical race theory

A stack of books with barbed wire wrapped around them.
Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

More than a dozen Atlanta school board members are criticizing legislation that would prohibit educators from teaching critical race theory in schools.

Why it matters: Critical race theory, a post-secondary academic concept that explores how racism influences American society and how systemic inequities persist today, is not part of Georgia’s public education curriculum.

  • However, the topic has become a flashpoint among some conservatives who say white students are being taught to hate themselves because of their race, and parents should have more control over what their children learn in the classrooms.

What they’re saying: In a letter penned Jan. 13, the 14 school board members say House Bill 888 is an attack on free speech and is an “effort to cancel public education as we know it."

Cobb Board of Education member Jaha Howard tells Axios that it was also troubling to see Gov. Brian Kemp support legislation that “adds so much red tape and bureaucracy.”

Details: Along with banning critical race theory, House Bill 888 also allows parents to inspect materials used to teach students and gives parents, students or school employees the ability to file complaints alleging a violation of the law.

  • Any school or district found to be in violation of the law could see 20% of its funding withheld by the State Board of Education.

Read the full story.

4. 🐝 Vote Tech early and often

Three people stand outside a modern building on campus with a large latticed overhang above them
The John and Joyce Caddell Building on Georgia Tech's campus. Photo: Bruce Damonte/Courtest of BLDGS

Georgia Tech is consistently ranked one of the country's best engineering schools.

Driving the news: One of those buildings, the John and Joyce Caddell Building, is in the running for American Architects' award for building of the year.

  • Designed by Atlanta-based architecture firm BLDGS, the home of the College of Building Construction is built on the bones of a 1950s concrete-and-steel structure.

Built with the goal of energy efficiency, the Caddell building features a cantilevered canopy that keeps the building in the shade.

Take action: The building's opposition includes some striking opponents spotlighted over the past year on the site, but there's nothing finer in the land than a smart and refined Tech building. Vote here.

5. ⛪ Five Points: Atlanta remembers "The Happy Preacher"

Illustration of five-ish points animating to form the letters ATL.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏛️ The Ga. Supreme Court will hear an appeal from a Cobb County father convicted in his son's hot car death. (Associated Press)

🍲 A new Vietnamese restaurant will open in March in Virginia-Highland. (Tomorrow's News Today)

🏈 A state legislator has introduced a bill to regulate high school sports. (WABE)

⛪ Atlanta residents are paying tribute to Elder Cal Merrell, "The Happy Preacher," who has died. (AJC)

👀 Atlanta's former chief procurement officer who was convicted of taking bribes has been granted early release from prison. (Saporta Report)

🙅🏽‍♀️Kristal hopes Friday's forecast for possible snow melts away (see what I did there?).

📣 Emma belatedly got way into Cheer during the weekend and has no regrets.

🐊 Thomas is shopping for good shoes to wear when he goes camping in the Okefenokee Swamp next week.