Regional study: Metro Atlanta lost 60K affordable rental units from 2014-19

Crews work on an off-campus student housing community in Midtown in 2017. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM



Crews work on an off-campus student housing community in Midtown in 2017. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Metro Atlanta lost nearly 60,000 housing units renting for less than $1,250 per month over just a five-year span before the pandemic hit, according to an Atlanta Regional Commission analysis presented Wednesday.

Those units would be affordable for someone making roughly $45,000, according to Mike Carnathan, ARC’s research and analytics division manager, who spoke to the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum. He pointed out that the supply of new housing in Atlanta — especially affordable housing — is not keeping up with demand as the region’s population soars.

“Every time we introduce new supply, it’s getting burned up in 20 days,” Carnathan said, referring to the statistic showing metro Atlanta has less than a month’s supply of housing.

The average price of a home sold in the 11-county metro region has also increased by $82,000 since 2017.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens joined the forum’s virtual event, announcing he wants his administration to get “aggressive” after the current budget cycle, which ends June 30, in combatting the undervaluing of commercial properties for tax purposes.

An Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News investigation in 2018 found a pattern of dozens of apartment buildings, warehouses, office complexes and shopping centers in the city are assessed and appraised at far less than what buyers paid for them in recent sales. Residential property owners in Atlanta, meanwhile, have seen their values soar in recent years.

Dickens estimated the city could be losing out on upwards of $30 million per year in property tax revenue from undervalued commercial properties. Analyses from other advocates have put that figure at over $100 million.

“Affordable housing is going to be one of the net benefits of us properly assessing commercial properties,” Dickens said, adding that the school system, public safety and infrastructure could also benefit.

The mayor also said he has begun having internal meetings about overhauling the city’s licensing process and other customer-facing systems. And he reiterated his goals of hiring a chief housing officer and putting together a housing sub-cabinet.

“It’s a black eye on the city, but I want to fix this black eye,” Dickens said of the permitting process.

The forum also featured regional leaders including DeKalb County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, Gwinnett County Commission Chair Nicole Love Hendrickson and Clayton County Commission Chair Jeffrey Turner. They all said affordability has become a top priority and vowed to work with their counterparts across the region.

“We haven’t always had this kind of collaboration,” said Bill Bolling, the forum’s founder and moderator.