Southwest Atlanta Neighborhoods Take on the Associated Press

In a syndicated article written and widely distributed by the Associated Press the southwest Atlanta neighborhood known as Westview is described as a place where all hope is lost. The article claims “house fires, prostitution, vandals and burglaries terrorize the residents left in this historic neighborhood.”

During the month leading up to the article Janna Elphinstone of the Associated Press interviewed Westview neighbors about mortgage fraud in the area. Both Westview and neighboring West End had been hit hard by mortgage fraud in previous years. The mortgage fraud led to vacant bank-owned homes, which also brought crime to the area. Looters, squatters, vandals, and burglars took advantage of the large inventory of neglected homes.

Over time new life began to emerge in the neighborhoods and an unfortunate situation turned into budding opportunity. New homeowners have begun to purchase the fixer-upper bungalows that dot the streets of Westview and West End. Because of the years of neglect many of the homes were never renovated and remain close to their original condition – large fireplaces, built-in bookcases, coffered ceilings, butler’s pantries, hardwood floors, period light fixtures, and large front porches. Change is inevitable when all of these elements are combined with below-market prices and a location only five minutes from downtown Atlanta.

When speaking with Elphinstone neighbors were delighted that someone in the press was willing to listen. They carefully explained how a bad situation was resulting in positive change. The years of hard work were starting to pay off – or so they thought.

Unfortunately, the new residents felt Elphinstone ignored the excitement and hard work put forth by the community and that she painted a tarnished image of their neighborhood. Elphinstone highlights some neighbors as “afraid to walk out of their homes at night.”

To the contrary, on a recent weekend a vibrant group of neighbors and friends met for a chili cook-off in a 90 year-old bungalow that is being restored by its owners. The party had over 50 adults in attendance and numerous children that played in the front yard. Patti Berry, who was visiting Westview, allowed her three children to eat on the front porch and play with the other children outside after dark. Other neighbors chose to stroll a couple blocks to get to the party.

While Elphinstone quoted Scott Smith, the Vice President of the Westview Neighborhood Association, that some realtors “tell [their] clients to think twice about buying here” she fails to mention how excited local realtors are about the area. Nia Knowles not only sells homes in the neighborhood, but also lives there with her family. They relocated from the East Atlanta Village to the West End earlier this year. She specializes in historic homes in West End and Westview, and she offers her clients an insider’s look at what’s happening in the area. She recommends her clients buy now while the home prices are still low.

Neighbors feel it is unfair to generalize an entire community based on a few carefully selected quotes. They assert the style of sensationalized journalism written by the AP’s Elphinstone is not only in poor taste but it creates an unrealistic point-of-view about foreclosures and crime. Repeated complaints to the Associated Press have failed to be acknowledged.

In order to set the record straight neighbors in Westview and West End decided to fight back. Neighbors, like Carl Nes from the West End, have begun to reach out to local Atlanta news agencies about the slanted article that inaccurately targeted their community. In the past Nes has had successful dialog with reporters about the West End neighborhood and he wanted to ensure his neighbors in Westview also received better treatment. Nes explained “Yes, Westview, and West End have problems, but the opportunities abound for turnaround.”

As for the twenty-two vacant bungalows on East and West Ontario that Elphinstone colorfully describes in her opening paragraph – many have been renovated and are currently for sale, and others are awaiting makeovers from the DIY crowd.

This news release is in response to an article written by Janna Elphinstone for the Associated Press. It was widely distributed by news agencies across the country: