As Metro Atlanta Continues to Grapple with Affordability, Brookhaven City Council Adopts the Region’s First City-Wide Mandatory Inclusionary Zoning
This week, Brookhaven became the first city in Metro Atlanta to adopt a city-wide mandatory inclusionary zoning ordinance. We are seeing a range of such policies as counties and municipalities across the region – from Atlanta to Cobb to Dunwoody and elsewhere – grapple with growth, affordability and density. As land prices in Metro Atlanta continue to climb, the Council for Quality Growth is working with policymakers on incentive-driven, non-mandatory approaches to affordable and workforce housing creation and preservation.
With the Atlanta Regional Commission estimating that more than 48 percent of all renters in Metro Atlanta are “cost-burdened” – pay more than 30 percent of their household income toward rent – workforce housing is a pressing issue facing our communities. Unsurprisingly, lawmakers are under pressure to act quickly and definitively on an issue with little consensus about income ranges and target groups that need to be addressed – and even less understanding of how the desired results can be realistically achieved by developers. Without adequate incentives to subsidize revenue lost on below-market rental rates, multi-family developments will not be constructed, thus further restricting housing supply and driving rental and purchase prices higher.
Tuesday evening Brookhaven City Council adopted its zoning ordinance rewrite after more than 18 months of hearings and debate. The Council for Quality Growth, along with other members of the Metro Atlanta Real Estate Trade Group including the Apartment Association and Board of Realtors, has worked with the City of Brookhaven over those months to provide feedback on its proposed zoning ordinance rewrite, including the provision for mandatory inclusionary zoning. What began as an affordable housing requirement applicable only in the Buford Highway Overlay area morphed into a city-wide requirement following a Planning Commission hearing in September. In public testimony, discussions with City Councilmembers, and a formal letter, the Council for Quality Growth voiced its objection to the inclusionary zoning requirement in any portion of Brookhaven without adequate incentives – namely, tax abatements – and continued to oppose the measure when it became city-wide. (Click here to read exactly how Brookhaven’s Inclusionary Zoning provision may affect projects that you have)
The Council for Quality Growth is, as always, engaged with policymakers in the City of Atlanta where an inclusionary zoning ordinance could be expanded from its current application in the Beltline/Westside TAD either city-wide or from just rentals to both rental and for-sale units. The current requirement has been largely unsuccessful, as developers have either chosen to construct outside of these areas or have chosen not to develop in the city at all, citing an inability to make the financials work.
The Cobb Workforce Housing discussion at Tuesday’s County work session focused on consumer-facing incentives to achieve attainable housing – such as down payment assistance through the Cobb Housing Authority and allocation of Community Development Block Grants to assist teachers and other public servants in purchasing a home. County staff has advised that a 20 percent down payment, whether entirely self-funded or through other assistance, will reduce monthly mortgage costs to a level below 30 percent of household income for a family making between 100-120 percent AMI.
Also related to density, in a special meeting called just before Thanksgiving, Dunwoody City Council approved a six-month moratorium on permits, applications, and construction of all “multi-unit buildings” within the City. Citing the “protection of public safety,” Dunwoody placed this halt on multi-unit development while the city assesses its related fire safety codes.
The Council for Quality Growth continues to provide leadership in the region in the Workforce and affordable housing discussion, advocating for non-mandatory, incentive-driven policies that ease the financial burden on developers for delivering below-market rate units. Through the input and work of all of you, the Council is reliably engaged by elected officials to bring your perspective to the table, and we will continue to lean on you for your input, experience, and expertise. Please continue to monitor our communications keeping you up-to-date as the affordability issue around the Region continues to be grappled with.