How Segregation and Average Homeowner Age Influenced Atlanta’s Housing Market

Atlanta downtown skyline during twilight blue hourIf you’re young and looking for a new place to live, which U.S. city would be one of your top choices?

For many Millennials today, Atlanta is right up there.

Atlanta was recently named as the No. 2 best city for Millennials across the country by Money.com, based on factors like job growth, costs of living, easy-to-access amenities and entertainment, and affordable rent/housing prices.

As the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported, more young workers have begun moving to mid-size cities and suburbs instead of flocking to urban hubs like New York City or Los Angeles; Austin, Texas was the top city for 20-somethings, and Columbus, Ohio came in third place after Atlanta.

It isn’t just about the nightlife or balmy weather, contrary to what one might assume. It’s more about Atlanta’s culture and its relative stability, especially when compared against other major U.S. cities.

Earlier this year, Princeton University sociologist Douglas Massey released an updated analysis of segregation in U.S. cities, specifically focusing on “hypersegregation” in neighborhoods over a period of 40 years. In 1970, Massey found that 40 cities were hypersegregated; this number dropped to 21 cities in 2010. This sort of segregation is most prevalent in housing trends, Massey said, but it’s also indicative of other social and cultural trends in certain cities.

“Hypersegregation produces high levels of social isolation from mainstream society, but also high concentrations of poverty and disadvantage,” said Massey. “If you look at the cityscape of the United States, hypersegregated cities are the places where our most severe problems of urban poverty, of racial inequality, of racial violence of various sorts are taking the most fervent root.”

Atlanta was one of those cities that made it off the hypersegregated list by 2010, which says a lot for the city’s progressive attitudes and inherent diversity. Much of this inclusiveness is likely due to the influx of Millennials, as many progressive cultural changes are.

This doesn’t mean that Atlanta’s housing market is golden, though. Atlanta is still one of the top cities where black and Hispanic homeownership rates have decreased since 2005, and many minority homeowners in the city are at or below the poverty line.

Certain programs, like the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, are what set Atlanta apart from other cities and make it less likely for hypersegregation to reappear. These programs help homeowners with a variety of issues: navigating possible foreclosures, understanding a new mortgage, developing sustainable homes, and learning how to increase the value of their homes. Even the smallest improvements can have a big effect; worn siding, for example, can decrease a house’s value by a whopping 10%, but installing a walk-in bathtub can actually be the strongest selling point of a house.

It’s clear that Atlanta has become a strongly progressive city in the past decade, which resulted in many positive changes. What remains to be seen is whether the city will continue to support inclusivity, or whether it will stagnate like so many other cities have done.

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