Ending on Good Note

Our project team with mentor Professor Ellen Zegura at the final presentation

The final presentation on Monday evening was a great opportunity for us to reflect on all of the hard work and learning we’ve done on our housing justice projects this summer. Our first project was an analysis and visualization of Atlanta’s Anti-Displacement Tax Fund, and the second was an interactive mapping tool to assist the Atlanta Legal Aid Society with a case about contract for deed properties. Although these housing justice issues are extremely complex and without clear solutions, we are proud of the results and tools we have created, and hope that they will enable our community partners to use data to better advocate for housing justice.

The Anti Displacement Tax Fund

The Anti-Displacement Tax Fund was developed as a response to community concerns surrounding rising property taxes and potential displacement due to urban revitalization projects on Atlanta’s Westside, namely the Mercedes Benz stadium and the western portion of the Beltline trail. The tax fund promises to help prevent displacement by offsetting property tax increases for eligible homeowners on the Westside, but community members remain concerned about how effective it may actually be in the long run. Our goals for this project were to calculate the number of eligible homeowners and the total cost of the program over time. We also sought to make our results accessible and open to community members by developing an interactive web application and getting community feedback along the way.

Our team hit some roadblocks initially with data collection and determining the best methods to achieve our desired results, but we eventually found 410 eligible homeowners using Fulton County Tax Assessor data, lien data from the Georgia Clerk’s Authority, and income modeling based on housing characteristics and Zillow data. Using historical tax assessor data, we forecasted property appreciation and property taxes for the next seven years by comparing the Westside to the Old Fourth Ward neighborhood, an area on Atlanta’s Eastside that previously experienced rising property taxes with Beltline construction. These neighborhoods were used to create clusters of properties with similar home characteristics and forecast property appreciation at the household level. By combining these results with our eligibility estimates, we were able to calculate an overall 7-year program cost of almost $1.8 million, much higher than the only other previous public estimate.

To make the data more open and accessible to community members, we created this online, interactive map tool: http://dssg.gatech.edu/adt/ The map shows a shaded region that represents neighborhoods eligible for the tax fund and dots that represent homes. You can search or click on a house, and information about program eligibility and forecasted property taxes for that home are displayed. An edit feature that will allow community members to update the property information to provide better eligibility and cost estimates is also under development. We are excited to have gotten great feedback about the tool from our partners at the Westside Atlanta Land Trust, and hope that it will allow both community members and policy makers to evaluate the program’s impact and alternative options. (View screenshot below)

Contract for Deeds: A Harbour Case Study

Our other project was an interactive mapping tool of contract for deed properties for our partners at the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. You can view the login page for this map here: http://dssg.gatech.edu/housing/login.html. Our project is called JUMA, or “Justice Map,” and allows Atlanta Legal Aid to view properties currently or previously owned by Harbour Portfolio, a real estate investment company. Atlanta Legal Aid is currently involved in a lawsuit against Harbour due to allegations of discriminatory and deceptive lending with their “contract for deed” business model. Contract for deeds allow people who could not afford a traditional mortgage to purchase a home through monthly payments, but they do not receive the title to the home until the purchase price has been paid in full, and can be evicted if they default on any payments.

Our mapping tool displays information about Harbour’s properties, including the current owner and appraised value. The information can be edited and notes can be left on each property to help with organization for the case. There are also demographic overlays such as income by zip code and racial density by census tract. We have enjoyed developing this tool with feedback from Atlanta Legal Aid and hope that it will allow them to interact with the Harbour properties in a new way to shed light on their case.

Acknowledgments

Using data science for projects that benefit the social good is extremely rewarding. We are so grateful to our partners at the Westside Atlanta Land Trust and the Atlanta Legal Aid Society; our sponsors from NSF, South Big Data Hub, Georgia Tech, and LexisNexis; and our amazing mentors Ellen, Amanda, and Chris for giving us this unique opportunity to learn about housing justice, data analysis, and community involvement.

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