Feb 28, 2022 - Real Estate

The mixed-up, no good, very serious metro Atlanta housing crisis

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Homes go under contract the day they hit the market. Longtime residents in gentrifying neighborhoods get letters from investors lobbing low-ball offers. And renters might find a unit that’s just right… but just out of reach. Welcome to metro Atlanta’s real estate market.

Why it matters: Affordable housing, especially in high-priced areas in Atlanta, a city with some of the country’s worst income inequality, helps low-wage workers live closer to jobs and access good schools.

By the numbers: In the Atlanta metro region, the median home price rose 44% from 2013 to 2020, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. During the same period, median home prices in Old Fourth Ward, Midtown and Decatur rose 61% to just under $400,000.

People squeezed out of the home market have turned to apartments, increasing competition for units despite a building boom during the pandemic.

Last year, metro Atlanta saw some of the fastest-rising rents in the country, and according to Redfin, the average rent is more than $2,000 — well above what a minimum-wage worker can afford.

What they’re saying: “In the last year or so things have gotten much worse, both in terms of rents rising a lot and home prices getting increasingly out of reach for modest-wealth families, especially many Black and Latinx households,” says Dan Immergluck, a professor at Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute.

Go deeper: Read our special weekend edition all about Atlanta's real estate market.

Good signs: Atlanta’s new plan to dedicate 2% of each year’s budget to a housing trust fund is a smart tool, Odetta MacLeish-White of the Center for Community Progress tells Axios. Community land trusts are also encouraging.

  • Last year, developers broke ground on units serving people making 50% to 60% of the area median income — or $30,200 to $36,240 a year for a one-person household — to address so-called “deep affordability” that’s long been overlooked.

Mayor Andre Dickens’ longtime focus on housing affordability and interest from philanthropies in finding solutions bodes well, Andy Schneggenburger of Porch and Square tells Axios. Last week, Dickens said his administration was working with churches to develop units on their available land.

  • Increased scrutiny by the AJC and activists on local development authorities have pressured public officials — and developers — to be more mindful of how and where subsidies are spent.

“The [housing] challenges that we have are expensive ones, so you’ve got to be careful about a subsidy and examine where it's going,” MacLeish-White says. She adds that the recent focus on living conditions at affordable complexes like Forest Cove in southeast Atlanta are elevating discussions about housing justice.


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