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National study: Building houses in Atlanta is easy. But Brookhaven? Not so much

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Analysis finds that Brookhaven’s 30319 zip code is the toughest place for building new housing in the region

North of Atlanta, this 2011 Brookhaven property promises “unsurpassed luxury” for $1.44 million.
This 2011 Brookhaven property promises “unsurpassed luxury” for $1.44 million.
RE/MAX Around Atlanta

Like much of the Southeast, metro Atlanta is an exceptionally easy place for building new housing. Relatively speaking.

But that doesn’t apply to all neighborhoods, where zoning restrictions, lack of developable land, and other factors mean NIMBYism is alive and well.

Leading the pack of tough-to-build places in metro Atlanta is Brookhaven, the north ITP city that recently made headlines for all but crushing MARTA’s plans to transform parking lots into transit-adjacent housing.

That’s according to data compiled by an econometrics whiz with BuildZoom, who was recently asked by the Wall Street Journal to rank the toughest places to build housing in the U.S.

Three zip codes in Atlanta stood out, spanning from Inman Park to Buckhead’s mansion seas. But Brookhaven ranked as the toughest.

Brookhaven’s 30319 zip code stretches from behind Lenox Square up to the Perimeter. Between 2000 and 2015, this swath saw just a 13 percent uptick in the number of new housing units—and a price explosion of more than 50 percent, researchers found.

In an email to Curbed Atlanta, a BuildZoom research association notes: “Often the zoning requirements in historically significant areas such as Brookhaven limit new developments.”

A recap of the study mentions another factor that makes low-density, wealthy sections tough spots for homebuilders:

“When such enclaves are sufficiently mature that they no longer harbor vacant land eligible for construction, they often fail to produce any new housing. In metro areas that continue to sprawl, gentrification is less common and the sharpest housing price appreciation often occurs in exclusive, wealthy enclaves ... The Villages in Houston (77024) and Brookhaven in Atlanta (30319) are good examples.”

The other two Atlanta zip codes ranked as toughest-to-build are, in order:


This stretches from Krog Street Market up to Emory University, including places such as Candler Park, Lake Claire, and parts of Druid Hills.


No surprise here, as this is tony, residential Buckhead, recently described as the epicenter of Atlanta’s affluence—the wealthiest zip code in Georgia and 60th in the U.S., where average homes are worth more than $1 million, per 2015 rankings.


Some other interesting, general findings:

The toughest-to-build places are not in American downtowns—where density is accepted and considered normal—but inner suburbs.

Except for Las Vegas, “the large metros in which it is easiest to build are located in the Southeast, and Atlanta stands out as the easiest among them,” the study found.

This chart shows metro Atlanta as being among the nation’s leaders in new housing and ease by which to build it.