From Melissa Fogey, DeKalb History Center: Reviving South Decatur: Urban Homesteading and its Effects, Presented by David S. Rotenstein, Ph.D. In 1975 Decatur became one of 23 American cities to have neighborhoods included in a new federal program devoted to returning foreclosed and abandoned homes to private homeownership. South Decatur in the 1960s had undergone a rapid transition from an all-white neighborhood to a majority African American neighborhood. Many of the new African American homeowners were unprepared for homeownership and their properties slipped into foreclosure.
By the mid-1970s, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development was South Decatur's largest residential property owner and property manager. The titles to more than 100 vacant homes in HUD's portfolio were transferred to Decatur's Housing Authority and 113 of those homes were sold to new owners for one dollar. The Urban Homesteading program was designed to attract new homeowners who would receive low-interest loans to rehabilitate their new houses to bring them up to code and spur investment in surrounding properties.
Urban Homesteading was authorized under the same legislation that created Community Development Block Grants. Together, these two acts enabled the rehabilitation of residential properties throughout South Decatur, improvements to McKoy and Oakhurst parks, and the area's first streetscape improvement project in the newly rebranded Oakhurst business district. By the turn of the twenty-first century, Oakhurst was a bustling and trendy Decatur neighborhood. This presentation looks at South Decatur's history and the impacts that the Urban Homesteading program had on the neighborhood and the greater city.
David Rotenstein graduated from Georgia State University and worked as an archaeologist with the Georgia Department of Transportation before attending graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania. He has a Ph.D. in Folklore and Folklife and he has worked in public history and historic preservation for more than 25 years. Dr. Rotenstein has taught history and cultural anthropology and he has written on blues history, industrial history, and vernacular architecture.
May 22, Noon, Historic DeKalb Courthouse, Second Floor, Free - bring your lunch!