During the foreclosure crisis of 2008 and 2009, Pittsburgh — not the steel city in Pennsylvania but the neighborhood in Atlanta — endured as much devastation as any place. The neighborhood had already lost thousands of residents in the last half of the 20th century. And those who remained, primarily Black, low-income Atlantans, were frequently “targets for subprime lending and other forms of mortgage fraud,” according to a recent report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Home values, that had been slowly rising prior to the crisis, suddenly dropped again. Vacancy was rampant.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation had been working on childhood poverty initiatives in Pittsburgh and surrounding neighborhoods in Atlanta since the early 2000s. Seeing how the wave of foreclosures had harmed the neighborhood, the Foundation took a step that nonprofits are often loath to take, says Natallie Keiser, a senior associate at the Foundation: It bought 53 properties.
“When we began the work, the values in the neighbourhood were so depressed that no real estate developer would really enter the neighbourhood because you could neither build nor redevelop a home [and earn a return],” Keiser says. “There was this tremendous cost gap. And so the [goal] was to try to begin rebuilding the housing market to the extent that others would also invest because there were more vacant homes than we could possibly address.”