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Study: Building affordable housing not easy in Atlanta, beyond

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Of 10,000 apartments built locally in past three years, 95 percent are "luxury," one city official claims

The topic of affordable housing in Atlanta — and the notion that the low and middle-class are being priced out — continues to stir ire locally. Some call it a crisis, especially in the case of the city’s new apartment stock.

According to a recent AJC article, of the 10,000 new apartments that have been built locally over the past three years, roughly 95 percent are considered "luxury," in the estimation of one city official.

In an attempt to combat this trend, Atlanta’s economic development authority last week passed an affordable housing policy aiming to increase the availability of affordable housing throughout the city.

But, according to a recent article in Apartment List based on an Urban Institute study, one troubling fact remains in Atlanta and other growing urban areas: It’s still very expensive for developers to build affordable housing units while making the numbers work for their bottom lines.

The study says, essentially, the gap is too large between how much money buildings with considerable amounts of "affordable" housing will make, versus the amount of money needed to build it. Factors such as cost of development, rent rates that are too low to bring in enough money, and insufficient financing keep developers from building more units for low-income tenants.

"This puts developers in a difficult space — spending less on land and development costs can only go so far before codes and regulations are broken; and raising rents ultimately defeats the purpose of affordable housing in the first place," according to the Apartment List article.

Furthermore: "This leaves financing as the target most policy makers have been focusing upon, in attempts to make it easier for developers of affordable housing to get funding."

Nonetheless, as things stand now, most of those 10,000 new units in Atlanta are "outside of the reach of working folks like police officers, firefighters, teachers, and bank tellers,” city councilman Andre Dickens told the AJC.