03 May Issues surrounding affordable housing aired at Cobb County panel discussion
A slate of new townhomes were under construction Friday on Frasier Street in Marietta.
SMYRNA — Representatives from local governments, nonprofits, developers, banks and other financial organizations gathered at Vinings Bank Friday to participate in a series of panel discussions around the issue of affordable housing.
Cobb Chairman Mike Boyce spoke several times during the event. To lead off the introductory panel, he emphasized that the county can’t help address the affordable housing issue financially.
“I believe that affordable housing is a market-driven program. I’ll be very candid with you because I don’t want to waste your time, this county does not have a dime to go into the budget for affordable housing,” he said.
In an interview during a break in the program, Boyce expanded on what he thinks the county’s role should be in working on the issue, saying the county can work to gather information about programs that are available and getting it in front of the people who may qualify for those programs.
“I think being the facilitator is one role. … What I have seen is we have these silos, everybody’s out there doing their own thing. But I think the synergy comes when you get something together like this, a forum like this, where we can share ideas. … It’s all about information, but you’ve got to dig for it,” Boyce said.
Raymond Kuniansky, chief development officer at Columbia Residential, said the definition of affordable housing that is typically used in the real estate industry is a home that is affordable to those with 80 to 120 percent of an area’s median income.
For Cobb, which has a median household income of $72,004 according to the U.S. Census, that would mean a home affordable for a household with a salary of $57,603 to $86,404.
However, Kuniansky said that Georgia Tech did a study years ago that found that 60 percent of new jobs in the metro Atlanta area paid less than $40,000, yet the median household price was just over $200,000.
“So those numbers don’t add up,” he said. “Really, when you get down to it, this is a mathematics exercise and a resource exercise of figuring out here’s what it costs to produce the housing product, here’s the rent that you’re going to be able to get out of it. And based on that, there’s a gap. And how do you fill that gap with some form of subsidy?”
Asked what the biggest challenge facing a potential homeowner with a low to moderate income is, Pete Waldrep, executive director of the Marietta Housing Authority, said rising prices.
According to a recent report by RE/MAX, the median home sales price in Cobb in March was $281,000, up about 2 percent from March 2018, which had a median sales price of $275,000.
Adams said downpaymentresource.com is a tool that matches prospective homebuyers with programs to help with down payments that they might be eligible for.
Thurman used the example of a new home with a $300,000 price tag and a potential homeowner making $40,000 a year.