Crime, transit, housing: Survey details DeKalb residents’ top concerns

A pedestrian was hit by at least one vehicle on the morning of Feb. 27, 2019, shutting down I-285 West near Spaghetti Junction and leading to hours of delays in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.
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A pedestrian was hit by at least one vehicle on the morning of Feb. 27, 2019, shutting down I-285 West near Spaghetti Junction and leading to hours of delays in DeKalb and Gwinnett counties.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

DeKalb County residents have witnessed firsthand the rising cost of housing in their communities, a new survey shows.

Nearly half of the county’s respondents to the Atlanta Regional Commission’s survey said that if they had to move today, they could not afford to stay in their neighborhoods. And 64% of DeKalb respondents said they saw older homes being replaced by new, more expensive homes.

The ARC’s 2019 “Metro Atlanta Speaks Survey” asked 5,450 people from 13 metro counties about their opinions on the most pressing issues facing the region. About 850 of those surveyed were from DeKalb.

Overall, DeKalb residents said transportation and crime were the biggest issues facing metro Atlanta.

But affordability also remains a strong concern, according to the survey. A third of DeKalb respondents said they would not be able to cover a $400 financial emergency, or could do so only by selling something or borrowing money.

About 64% said they witnessed “property flipping,” a process where homes are remodeled to be sold at higher prices. DeKalb tied Fulton for the strongest responses to that question.

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Many DeKalb residents said they witnessed old houses in their neighborhood being replaced by newer, more expensive homes.

Many DeKalb residents said they witnessed old houses in their neighborhood being replaced by newer, more expensive homes.
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Many DeKalb residents said they witnessed old houses in their neighborhood being replaced by newer, more expensive homes.

Development across the county has boomed in recent years, as more communities promote projects that increase density and construction. Some residents are encouraged by the development and revitalization, but it has also prompted concern from some residents and officials about the impact of gentrification.

“People are seeing affordable housing as a key regional issue,” said Mike Carnathan, the manager of the research and analytics group at ARC. He pointed out that “there's no one thing we can point to and say, ‘This is why affordability is such a challenge.’ It’s a package of things.”

Transportation has also remained a topic of discussion among county officials. About 58% of DeKalb respondents to the survey said expanded transit is the best solution the region’s traffic challenges.

Earlier this year, the DeKalb commission voted that the county should push MARTA to extend a rail line along I-20 to the city of Stonecrest. Commissioners also signed off on a transit master plan that includes four different scenarios, all with varying price tags, for how public transportation can be expanded over the next 30 years.

And one-fifth of DeKalb residents who responded to the survey said crime is their top concern.

There have already been more than 100 homicides in the county this year, DeKalb police said, on pace to beat the number of killings in 2018.

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