Unfortunately, our state continues to face limited inventory and high prices. For every home for sale in Georgia, there are 65 active buyers — three times more than pre-pandemic levels. Increased costs of building materials and labor shortages have also contributed heavily to the rising costs of new home prices. Compounding these national trends is the reality that in Georgia, regulations covering the development and construction phases of homebuilding are mired in burdensome regulations that are currently on the books. To make matters worse, these regulations vary from city to city and county to county — creating a piecemeal patchwork which only further serves to drive up costs. These realities disproportionately discriminate against middle-income earners, senior citizens and first-time home buyers who are being priced out of the market every day. Even though home ownership is a proven method for growing wealth and elevating families out of poverty, the result has been that Georgia’s homeownership rate has decreased 7% over the past two decades.
Our state is at a true inflection point. Left unchecked, this problem will negatively impact rural economic development, limit existing industry expansions in our hub communities around the state and limit relocations to our metro areas. It’s abundantly clear the status quo is not meeting consumer demand or providing enough housing to meet the economic development needs of the state.
Gov. Brian Kemp made increasing access to affordable workforce housing a highlight of his State of the State Address to kick off the 2023 legislative session, and included $35.7 million in his administration’s amended fiscal year 2023 budget for a Rural Workforce Housing Fund program — which was signed into law recently. This commitment from our state’s newly elected chief executive shows the importance — and the need — for change.
Additionally, the Georgia House of Representatives’ Study Committee on Regulation, Affordability, and Access to Housing, which met throughout 2022, gathered clear and convincing evidence that legislative action is needed to address the workforce housing crisis. It is essential that solutions to this pressing issue are enacted to invest in communities, create more jobs, and build better, more affordable housing solutions for hardworking Georgians.
Fortunately, legislation has been introduced this year that accomplishes that goal. HB 514 and HB 517, introduced by State Rep. Dale Washburn, R-Macon, seek to cut government red tape, increase access to attainable workforce housing and empower job creators to meet consumer demand. This vital legislation will focus on basic state standards of safety and quality to ensure a streamlined approach, better serving citizens across the state. Championing free-market, good-government housing reforms like these will allow job creators to do what they do best: innovate, invest in communities, and meet consumer demand – all while providing more places for Georgians to live at prices that allow for long term stability and economic mobility.
In a meaningful first step, HB 514 was passed by the House on a bipartisan vote — and the Georgia Coalition for Housing Opportunity hopes to see HB 517 receive similar consideration by lawmakers before the end of the legislative session.
The numbers and the results in the lives of everyday Georgians are clear: Georgia’s thoughtful, consistent leadership has created unprecedented economic growth. To continue building long-term prosperity for years to come, targeted, pro-growth solutions like HB 514 and HB 517 will allow our current employers to have quality housing for their new and existing workforces, while also supporting strong families and communities along the way.
Chris Clark is president and CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce, which is a member of the Georgia Coalition for Housing Opportunity.