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Springfield's Forward SGF housing efforts show ‘foresight,’ says Georgia urban planner

A residential block in Springfield's historic Grant Beach neighborhood shows a recently renovated home and a formerly crime-ridden house being converted into a garage. Both homes benefit from programs associated with Restore SGF, Drew Lewis Foundation and Blue House Project.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Homes in Springfield's historic Grant Beach neighborhood, photographed March 21, 2023, benefitted from housing improvement programs linked to Springfield's comprehensive plan, Forward SGF.

Springfield is often deemed a great place to start a business — but is it a great place to live? A much-anticipated city housing study is almost complete.

More than a year ago, at a cost of $256,000, the city of Springfield hired a Georgia-based consulting firm, APD Urban Planning, to study the condition of the city’s housing assets.

It’s part of the Forward SGF comprehensive plan adopted 13 months ago. The idea is to preserve and improve the city’s neighborhoods. Encouraging homeownership is also a goal, in a city where most of the houses are now rental units.

In recent days, City Council heard from two consultants conducting the study. Their complete report is expected soon, but they shared a preview with city officials.

As urban planner Deborah Jensen wrapped up APD's lunchtime presentation, she recapped the consultants' impression of Springfield's current housing situation.

“We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working in Springfield, to be honest," Jensen said. "It was a pleasant surprise to us."

"We're glad," Mayor Ken McClure responded, with a hearty laugh.

Jensen, who is based in Atlanta, went on to describe Springfield as "an unknown hidden gem." She added, "Your housing issues — You’re in the right time and place to really turn the tide because it hasn’t gone too far.”

The APD report presented by Jensen and her colleague Reginald White included examples of successful neighborhood improvements. They were located in cities like Buffalo, New York and Baltimore, Maryland.

Jensen said, “Most places we work in are very distressed. So you haven’t gotten there, and kind of nipping it in the bud now... shows a lot of foresight.”

Key findings of the report so far include the reality that most homeowner households in Springfield are considered high income, earning $77,000 per year or more. That’s tens of thousands more than median income households take home.

The consultants also said affordable housing is in short supply for Springfield renters with lower incomes. Those households tend to be spending more money on rent than their budgets can afford.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.