Mar 4, 2022 - Real Estate

Affordable housing stock shrinks across metro Atlanta

Illustration of an upside-down house forming a downward-pointing arrow.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Metro Atlanta has lost nearly 60,000 housing units that could have been rented by lower- to moderate-income residents in the five years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • That’s one of several key takeaways from Wednesday’s Atlanta Regional Housing Forum, a quarterly gathering of metro stakeholders to take the pulse of the industry.

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

  • Coupled with real estate investors scooping up properties around Atlanta, many residents are finding themselves priced out of a market they once could afford.

By the numbers: Mike Carnathan, the Atlanta Regional Commission’s data expert and co-founder of Neighborhood Nexus, says the city lost 9,300 units that were renting for $1,250 or less between 2014 and 2019. That number climbs to 59,300 for the 11-county region.

  • The average increase in rent for a two-bedroom apartment was 27% in Atlanta since 2017, compared to 43% for the region.
  • The number of tenants who are “extremely cost burdened,” or spending at least 50% of their income on rent, is about 28,000 in Atlanta. It’s about 148,000 in the 11-county region.

Of note: Atlanta is also producing fewer housing units, Carnathan says. On average, 4,100 units were constructed annually from 1999 to 2000. That figure now stands at around 2,500 annually from 2012 to 2021.

What they’re saying: Tackling the affordable housing crisis is one of Mayor Andre Dickens’ priorities.

  • Dickens, who spoke during the forum, said his goal is to build or retain 20,000 affordable housing units over the next eight years. He’s asked the city’s faith-based community to produce 1,000 of those units.
  • To help with his quest, the City Council recently agreed to transfer 2%, or $15 million, over three years of its general fund budget to the community affordable housing trust fund.

Zoom out: Metro Atlanta communities are also feeling the affordable housing pinch. In DeKalb, County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson said the county has about 4,700 vouchers for affordable housing and a waiting list of 45,000 people.

  • Clayton County Commisson Chair Jeff Turner said it has a lot of investors coming into the community and buying up homes, putting a “burden on those families.”

In Gwinnett, where one-third of residents earn less than $50,000 each year, a family could reasonably afford to buy a $200,000 home, said Commission Chair Nicole Hendrickson. The problem: No homes sold for less than that amount in 2020, she said.

All three commissioners said they are open to such alternatives to traditional housing as auxiliary dwelling units, but they want to make sure any proposal doesn’t clash with its land use plans and is used properly.

  • “I don’t want to see the integrity of communities sacrificed under the auspices of creating or solving a problem either,” Cochran-Johnson said.
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