The majority if not all of the apartment properties along the Beltline have experienced excessive property tax increases over the past decade, which has directly led to higher rents. Any property built in the last four years has also been required to restrict a significant number of units – 10 to 20 percent – with rents capped at a level to remain affordable to those making 60 to 80 percent of the area median income through the city’s inclusionary zoning policy, resulting in higher operating expenses for the property owner and more expensive rent for the unrestricted units. A new tax like the proposed Beltline SSD on apartment communities cannot be absorbed into the property’s budget and will undeniably result in lost value and increased rents across the property.
The proposed SSD concept directly conflicts with Atlanta’s collective efforts to address the growing housing affordability challenges around the Beltline and across our region. The multifamily housing industry has been a committed stakeholder in the pursuit of real, politically and economically viable solutions and programs to create and preserve housing affordability across metro Atlanta. We are hopeful that city leaders will join us in choosing to prioritize affordability over an expedited Beltline construction timeline.
It’s important to remember that the future of the Beltline does not depend on this Special Services District proposal, and the hundreds of millions in revenue it is expected to generate. This tool only serves to accelerate the pace at which the Beltline organization can acquire property and construct the trail, which may reduce the expected completion of the trail from 15 to 10 years.
While we look forward to the completion of the Beltline, attempting to speed up that construction timeline on the backs of those who are struggling most right now – Atlantans who rent an apartment home – cannot be the right path forward at this time.
If housing affordability is a public goal for Atlanta, our city leaders must collectively consider the realities of a policy like this that unfairly impacts the affordability of rental housing and have the courage to oppose it.
Jim Fowler is president of the Atlanta Apartment Association, the multifamily housing trade association for the Atlanta metro area with over 1,450 member companies managing 430,000-plus apartment homes.