It’s a question I’m often ask as the executive director of an organization whose mission is to promote the responsible use of land and build walkable thriving communities. National data suggests that yes, Atlanta is affordable relative to peer cities. 72% of homes are affordable to those earning the area median income according to the Housing Opportunity Index.
But if Atlanta were so affordable, why do conversations I have about housing always start with “there’s a tear down on my street that is going for $600,000” or “my cousin has been priced out of her apartment on Windy Hill for the second time in a year”. That certainly doesn’t feel affordable, especially for millennials, new families, and seniors. It doesn’t feel affordable to half the workers in Atlanta’s economy who earn $45,000 per year. Despite this, there is ample data to suggest that overall Atlanta is affordable in terms of median home price and percent of income spent on housing. Many practitioners believe that Atlanta is simply experiencing a maturation of the real estate market.
So, what is going on? Is Atlanta experiencing market maturation, or is there something more to it?
A key term in the affordable housing literature is determining the number of cost burdened households, which is any household that spends more than 30% of their total income on housing. This equation is simple when it’s calculated for someone who lives in a city with lots of transit options and connectivity (think New York City or Washington, DC). Since Atlanta has no geographic boundaries like other cities do, transportation cost is a key driven of the cost burden equation. Read more
By: Sarah Kirsch, Executive Director ULI Atlanta