Oct 5, 2021 - News
Atlanta suburbs see increase in renters
Reproduced from RENTCafé; Chart: Axios Visuals

Homeownership and the suburbs may not go hand-in-hand as they once did.

The number of people renting homes in several metro Atlanta suburbs grew in the last decade, according to Rentcafe.com.

Why it matters: Experts say the increase in the number of suburban renters stems from the 2008 Great Recession when many people, particularly Black residents, lost their homes to foreclosures.

Details: RentCafe used data taken from the U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey five-year estimates. The study compared changes in rental rates from 2010 and 2019:

  • While still dominated by owner-occupied homes, Johns Creek saw its share of renters grow by from 15% in 2010 to 23% in 2019.
  • During that time, renters grew from 28% to 34% in Tucker and from 24% to 36% in Mableton, an unincorporated community.
  • Two additional metro cities Canton and Douglasville – are now majority-renter communities, RentCafe says. Between 2020 and 2019, the percentage of renters in Canton jumped from 38% to 52% and from 43% to 53% in Douglasville, according to RentCafe's study.

Of note: Atlanta proper is now a majority-rent city, with its share growing from 50.5% to 54.1%, RentCafe suggests.

What they're saying: Erin Willoughby, director of the Atlanta Legal Aid Society's Housing Legal Resource Center in Clayton County, said the growing number of renters can be attributed to people not having enough money to save for a down payment. She also said credit requirements are "unrealistic for some people."

  • I think there's a large population of middle-and low-income folks who just can't afford it, she said of home ownership, adding that many millennials are part of this group. The dream of homeownership is just out of reach for us.

Dan Immergluck, a professor with Georgia State University's Urban Studies Institute, said the 2008 housing market crash hit Black homeowners particularly hard. In places like Atlanta that had many Black homeowners, he says, they overall lost more wealth than white homeowners.

  • When the market began to recover around 2012, those same Black residents did not re-enter the industry due to an influx of large investors who could pay cash for homes, and the mortgage industry tightening lending requirements.
  • "That meant that Black homeowners were hit hard on way down and potential Black homeowners were locked out on the way up," he said.

What's next: Both Immergluck and Willoughby said suburbs will need to shore up their services to protect the renters living in their communities.

  • Willoughby added there needs to be a re-evaluation on what it means to put down roots that consider renters as established residents of neighborhoods. She also said communities need to focus on housing affordability to keep up with the changing demographics.
  • Immergluck said the suburbs also don't have strong organizations that advocate for renters. He also said laws that offer little protection for tenants also make it easier for landlords to evict people quickly.
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