Beltline CEO Paul Morris out after agency’s recent troubles on affordable housing

Atlanta Beltline CEO Paul Morris was fired Wednesday from his post.

Atlanta Beltline CEO Paul Morris was fired Wednesday from his post.

Atlanta Beltline CEO Paul Morris is stepping down from his post after a tenure that recently became rocky because of issues over affordable housing.

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s office issued a statement about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, just hours after the Atlanta Beltline board met to discuss Morris’ possible departure.

Morris will be replaced by Brian McGowan, a principal with the global law firm Dentons and former head of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm.

“For the last four years, Paul Morris has brought an impressive depth of management experience to the Atlanta Beltline and I am grateful for his service to the city of Atlanta, Reed said in a statement.

“I am proud of Paul’s accomplishments and I wish him the best as he embarks on the next chapter of his career.”

Morris, who was appointed CEO and president in 2013, has been criticized for not doing enough to promote affordable housing along the project, which has seen home prices soar where it is being built.

In July, an investigation by the Georgia News Lab and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Beltline Inc. funded so few the 5,600 affordable homes the city required it to create that it may never reach its 2030 goal, and some of the ones it did create are already starting to vanish.

Morris and board president John Somerhalder blamed the Great Recession and legal problems, but the investigation found that the agency created much of the problem. Rents along finished portions of the Beltline have since risen 59 percent.

Beltline Inc. kept units that it funded affordable for only a short time; decreased spending on affordable housing under Morris’ leadership; and even passed up on millions of dollars of potential funds. The untapped funds were enough to more than double the project’s affordable housing budget, the investigation found.

More details to follow.

Property taxes on the home of lifelong Old Fourth Ward resident resident Helene Mills, 90, have skyrocketed in recent years because of luxury construction along Atlanta’s Beltline. The retired tax auditor and senior advocate said residents of the historically black neighborhood worry they won’t be able to stay.