At a recent meeting of the Atlanta Regional Housing Task Force, Urban Land Institute (ULI) Atlanta's Executive Director, Sarah Kirsch, shared insights and results of research on Atlanta's growing housing affordability needs. The research, conducted by Bleakly Advisory Group, highlights the increasing demand for affordable, workforce housing in not just the City of Atlanta, but across the region. It also illustrates the stagnation in incomes compared to the prices of new homes and rental properties, with median income increasing only 1% per year from 2010 to 2015 while new homes jumped 3.7% year over year. Simultaneously, apartments built before 2012 increased by 4.5% per year, but apartments built since 2012 surged 9.5% year over year. According to our research, only 10% of new apartments in the five-county study area (Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, and Cobb) are considered affordable for a household earning 80% AMI (annual median income), renting for $1,000 or less per month.
Bleakly Advisory's research also shows how affordable housing is connected to transportation costs, noting that moderate income households in the region spend 62% of their income on housing and transportation combined. As affordable housing options are increasingly located further away from economic centers in the region, transportation costs and commute times climb. Per the ULI report: "Lack of transit access to job centers means long, expensive commutes, which drive up transportation costs for moderate income working households and increases congestion and commute times for everyone." Further strategies for increasing housing affordability in the Atlanta region need to include alternative transportation and denser development around transit, as Bleakly Advisory Group reported in 2012, if affordability efforts are to succeed.
There are many strategies for mitigating rising housing costs, including Inclusionary Zoning, which the Atlanta City Council adopted early in 2018 for neighborhoods within half a mile of the Atlanta BeltLine and on the city's Westside. Councilmember Andre Dickens is optimistic that new policies will emerge across the region. "Housing challenges are regional, and when we create a policy in the City of Atlanta, we want to be able to share it across the region. ARC is helping us do that."
Other strategies in our research include affordable unit subsidies, down payment assistance, tax-allocation districts (TAD's) specifically to support affordable housing funds, and bond programs for affordable housing production in the region's five core-counties. To read more about our research and estimated costs of these strategies, click here.