Alpharetta looks ahead to affordable workforce housing - North Atlanta Business Post
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Updated Nov 14 @ 1:05PM

Alpharetta looks ahead to affordable workforce housing

Study sketches current conditions for employees


City’s population is 64,000, with an estimated 2 percent annual growth rate.

Ninety-four percent of workers commute into Alpharetta

Only 6.4 percent of employees live and work in the city.

Most new housing units in 2016 were single-family and owner-occupied.

Of the 2,127 housing units under construction, 559 (26 percent, are multi-family.

As of 2014, Alpharetta had 24,221 housing units – 18,209 were single-family and 6,012 multi-family.

Owner-occupied units compose 64 percent of the housing inventory, and renters make up 36 percent.

ALPHARETTA, Ga. – Affordable housing has drawn more debate among city leaders in North Fulton than almost any recurring topic.

The issue has fractured Roswell leadership, pitting half the City Council against the other, and has summoned throngs of residents to council meetings to speak out on high-density development.

The debate is hardly less fiery in Alpharetta, where city leaders are now studying ways to accommodate a burgeoning workforce while maintaining a balance of owner-occupied and rental dwellings.

At a recent council workshop, representatives from two planning firms presented a report on current housing conditions and how the city can address a growing shortage of affordable housing for the workforce.

The purpose of the first study is to present a picture of the current housing environment in terms of affordability for workers and for current residents looking to downsize, said Councilman Jason Binder.

This study began, he said, in reference to the city’s Comprehensive Plan which connects affordable workforce housing to economic development.

That workforce is defined as professionals in their 20s and 30s.

“So, if you’re looking at it as an economic development tool, we need to look for housing for that age range, young professionals for the Technology City of the South,” Binder said.

In addition, attention must also focus on older residents, he said.

“Approximately 21.4 percent of the city’s residents are at or near retirement age,” Binder said. “So as our residents are looking to downsize, I think it would be good if we have an adequate supply of housing for them.”

High-income workforce

Binder emphasized that “affordable workforce housing” in Alpharetta would differ from many other areas of Metro Atlanta.

The median household income in Alpharetta is $93,000, according to the latest U.S. Census figures. That’s more than $30,000 higher than the median household income for all of Metro Atlanta.

The next rung for the city study is to see what solutions can be found.

Those solutions should help provide a robust housing supply for technology professionals for companies coming in and ways the city can work with developers to have a housing supply that’s affordable at that range, Binder said.

State Sen. Brandon Beach, executive director of the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce, told council members July 10 that personal preference for CEOs was no longer the chief criterion in considering business relocation.

Companies today consider a qualified workforce as the key factor in location, he said.

A report to the City Council that same night from representatives from TSW and Reuter Strategies, the city’s consultants, painted a dire picture of workforce affordable housing in Alpharetta.

The report showed that about a third of Alpharetta’s 84,000 jobs pay less than $40,000 annually, far below what it would cost a family of four to rent or buy a residence in the city.

The limitations in affordable housing for workers suggests that Alpharetta’s current traffic congestion will only get worse, the study said.

“Transit investments can improve choices in the future but low density land use patterns and the dominance of automobile travel in the U.S. means that existing Alpharetta workers and residents will likely be commuting [into the city]for many years,” the report said.

What other cities are doing

The report suggests the city develop a means to incorporate affordable housing into its future planning, and it cited other cities that are pursuing that goal:

The Sandy Springs Comprehensive Plan has resulted in development of small area plans for districts of the city. These small area plans can be fine-tuned through specific development regulations to the individual districts. As a result, there has significant activity in the city to develop medium scale residential apartments along the Roswell Road corridor adjacent to the City Springs development which includes a new city hall. The residents of these new units will almost certainly be working in the Sandy Springs area.

The City of Atlanta has seen substantial new quantities of workforce housing over the past decade. The Atlanta Beltline, Midtown and Buckhead are the primary targets for this construction. The Atlanta Beltline Tax Allocation District includes an Affordable Housing Trust Fund which recently received $14 million after bonds were issued in December 2016. On February 15, the city announced it would authorize $40 million in Housing Opportunity Bonds, to include funding for multifamily rental, down payment assistance for single family, land acquisition, and owner-occupied rehab.

In Decatur, developers of multi-family units can receive a 20 percent density bonus that allows them to exceed the residential unit densities by 20 percent if 75 percent of these additional units are marketed to individuals and families making 80 percent of the median income. This incentive program, known as the “Lifecycle Housing Density Bonus,” is available for both for-sale condominiums and for-rent apartment developments.

Alpharetta Councilman Jim Gilvin said it is interesting to see what initiatives other cities are taking for workforce housing, but he added Alpharetta is unique from other Metro Atlanta cities. He suggested consultants tailor future comparative research to cities that more closely resemble Alpharetta’s economic and demographic conditions – if any can be found.

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