A Story of Public Housing

  • Fred Vigeant

East Lake Meadows, the public housing project opened by the Atlanta Housing Authority in 1970 and demolished a generation later, is the subject of a new documentary by Sarah Burns and David McMahon that tackles the impact of racism on housing while also exploring the daily lives of those who called East Lake Meadows home. East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story broadcasts Tuesday, March 24 at 8pm on WITF.

In 1970, the Atlanta Housing Authority opened the 650-unit public housing community called East Lake Meadows on the edge of Atlanta. Built on the former practice golf course of the Atlanta Athletic Club, which had moved north as part of the white flight that was impacting Atlanta and cities around the country, East Lake Meadows quickly became home to many thousands of low-income Atlantans, mostly African American.

Initially praised for the spacious units and new construction, East Lake Meadows quickly became known as “little Vietnam,” a moniker that was intended to capture the rampant crime and violence that overwhelmed the community.

Shoddy construction and a lack of funding left the project and surrounding landscape in disrepair and led to a rapid decline in the quality of life. As public housing developments in Atlanta and across the country were further abandoned and stigmatized, and as a drug epidemic swept through cities, East Lake Meadows became nearly uninhabitable.

As the film shows, however, residents — many of whom had no other place to go — continued to call it home, creating strong bonds despite the many challenges they faced.

Watch the documentary on WITF Tuesday March 24 at 8pm, or through the PBS Video app.

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