Examining Atlanta’s Affordable Housing Shortage

Posted May 3, 2021
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog atlantasaffordablehousing 2021

Photo courtesy of Bari Love for the Casey Foundation

Too many Atlantans — par­tic­u­lar­ly those in com­mu­ni­ties of col­or — strug­gle to find ade­quate, healthy and afford­able hous­ing for their fam­i­lies. It’s a dilem­ma that leaves some res­i­dents floun­der­ing finan­cial­ly, fac­ing evic­tions or relo­cat­ing beyond city limits.

The COVID-19 pan­dem­ic has made mat­ters even worse, adding to the rise of lost jobs, missed wages and eco­nom­ic uncer­tain­ty in these same communities.

The Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion invests in efforts to pro­mote qual­i­ty, afford­able hous­ing in Atlanta and pro­tect long­time res­i­dents from dis­place­ment. It has explored sev­er­al sources — includ­ing a detailed resource from Atlanta’s Depart­ment of City Plan­ning — that break down local hous­ing issues.

Here’s what the Foun­da­tion has found:

Atlanta has had a real estate boom, but not enough units are afford­able and hous­ing costs have increased

Atlanta’s pop­u­la­tion has grown to more than 500,000 — up from rough­ly 420,000 in 2010, accord­ing to its Depart­ment of City Planning.

The city has also added more than 17,500 hous­ing units in recent years. The prob­lem? Too few of these new units are afford­able yet hous­ing costs, rent pay­ments and prop­er­ty tax­es have all increased.

About 4 in 10 house­holds in Atlanta earn less than $45,000 per year. Many of these house­holds ear well below this total (in 2018, 26% of city house­holds earned less than $25,000 a year).

These res­i­dents need hous­ing units that cost less than $1,000 per month — or even small­er — to avoid sig­nif­i­cant cost bur­dens. Yet, just 3,301 new units from 20102018 were priced under $1,000 a month, accord­ing to the city.

Left with no oth­er options, many res­i­dents spend a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of their earn­ings on hous­ing. In 2018, near­ly 50% of all renters — about 16 per­cent­age points more than in 2010 — were spend­ing upwards of 30% of their income on rent.

Evic­tion rates climbed in recent years

As Atlanta’s hous­ing costs have increased, so, too, have the num­ber of evictions.

Geor­gia has a swift evic­tion process — one that hits renters with an evic­tion notice as soon as they miss a pay­ment. Oth­er states build delays into the process so that renters have a chance to make pay­ments before get­ting hit with an evic­tion notice.

Evic­tion mora­to­ri­ums, enact­ed dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, have helped keep fam­i­lies in their homes. Even so, some land­lords have found ways to remove ten­ants and past-due renters may be still vul­ner­a­ble once all mora­to­ri­ums expire, say hous­ing advocates.

From 2015 to 2017, Atlanta’s evic­tion rate was 5.7% — the third worst rate in the nation. In some pre­dom­i­nant­ly Black neigh­bor­hoods, includ­ing in South­west Atlanta, near­ly 40% of renters had received evic­tion notices in recent years, accord­ing to an analy­sis from the Fed­er­al Reserve Bank of Atlanta. Land­lords have used evic­tion notices to intim­i­date ten­ants they dis­fa­vor, say hous­ing advo­cates. While these notices may not result in removal, they can still dis­rupt the res­i­dents’ lives and neg­a­tive­ly affect their work, cred­it scores, edu­ca­tions and men­tal health.

Land use and zon­ing plays a role in hous­ing insecurity

Atlanta’s liv­ing options are most­ly restrict­ed to large apart­ment build­ings and sin­gle-fam­i­ly homes. There are too few sev­er­al-unit struc­tures that would allow for a mid­dle mar­ket to form, accord­ing to the Depart­ment of City Plan­ning. Cur­rent zon­ing and recent devel­op­ment are geared toward low den­si­ty, which posi­tions res­i­dents far­ther away from jobs, food, schools and oth­er com­mu­ni­ty amenities.

Casey’s hous­ing invest­ments in Atlanta

Casey col­lab­o­rates with and sup­ports local orga­ni­za­tions that are address­ing hous­ing issues in Atlanta. These part­ner­ships include:

Expand­ing and pre­serv­ing afford­able housing

House ATL, a group of local com­mu­ni­ty orga­ni­za­tions, busi­ness­es and civic lead­ers, has rec­om­mend­ed a $1 bil­lion com­mit­ment of pub­lic and pri­vate funds to cre­ate or pre­serve at least 20,000 afford­able hous­ing units over an 810-year peri­od. The Casey Foun­da­tion sup­ports the group’s Fun­ders’ Col­lec­tive, which helps fill cost gaps as the city works to main­tain afford­able hous­ing options in the area.

Enter­prise Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ners advo­cates for pre­serv­ing mul­ti-fam­i­ly hous­ing. The orga­ni­za­tion also pro­vides tech­ni­cal assis­tance to afford­able devel­op­ments, includ­ing Casey-sup­port­ed efforts in Neigh­bor­hood Plan­ning Unit‑V (NPU‑V) — an area that includes six pri­mar­i­ly African Amer­i­can neigh­bor­hoods in South­west Atlanta.

Fight­ing evic­tions and bol­ster­ing renter protections

  • The Atlanta Vol­un­teer Lawyers Foun­da­tion (AVLF) has staff based at city ele­men­tary schools — includ­ing in NPU‑V — that iden­ti­fy fam­i­lies who are strug­gling with evic­tions. AVLF pro­vides legal coun­sel and rep­re­sen­ta­tion to res­i­dents fac­ing issues and served near­ly 1,600 ten­ants in 2020. Dur­ing the pan­dem­ic, AVLF estab­lished one of the largest emer­gency rental assis­tance pro­grams in the city, with $2 mil­lion in funds disbursed.
  • The Hous­ing Jus­tice League teach­es res­i­dents about their rights when fac­ing an evic­tion and sup­ports ten­ants in orga­niz­ing asso­ci­a­tions to bet­ter advo­cate for them­selves. In 2019, the Hous­ing Jus­tice League also released an Evic­tion Defense Man­u­al to help res­i­dents under­stand how they can avoid evic­tions and mount defens­es against them.

Build­ing hous­ing devel­op­ment pol­i­cy and pro­mot­ing advocacy

Enter­prise Com­mu­ni­ty Part­ners, Geor­gia Act, and the Geor­gia Sup­port­ive Hous­ing Asso­ci­a­tion engage in state-lev­el advo­ca­cy, advanc­ing such pri­or­i­ties as:

  • estab­lish­ing rev­enue sources for hous­ing trust funds that can cre­ate and main­tain afford­able hous­ing in Atlanta and across the state;
  • pre­serv­ing the low-income hous­ing tax cred­it — one of the state’s only sources of fund­ing for this type of hous­ing development
  • increas­ing pro­tec­tions for renters, such as requir­ing land­lords to noti­fy ten­ants before an evic­tion fil­ing and ban­ning dis­crim­i­na­tion against fed­er­al hous­ing vouch­er hold­ers; and
  • help­ing low-income home­own­ers uti­lize tools — like exemp­tions and cir­cuit break­ers” — to bet­ter man­age grow­ing prop­er­ty tax bills.

Learn about the Casey Foundation’s hous­ing-focused investments

Read about efforts to expand afford­able hous­ing in Atlanta’s Pitts­burgh neighborhood

Popular Posts

View all blog posts   |   Browse Topics

Youth with curly hair in pink shirt

blog   |   June 3, 2021

Defining LGBTQ Terms and Concepts

A mother and her child are standing outdoors, each with one arm wrapped around the other. They are looking at each other and smiling. The child has a basketball in hand.

blog   |   August 1, 2022

Child Well-Being in Single-Parent Families