Buckhead plan aims to reduce solo commutes by providing affordable homes in Buckhead

By David Pendered

The related challenges of affordable housing and traffic congestion are paired in a new report in Buckhead. Civic leaders have devised a proposal to increase the number of affordable homes in order to enable staffers to reside closer to work and not need a car to commute.

buckhead housing, apartment rent

The average monthly rental rate for an apartment in Buckhead is $1,920, which is significantly higher than the average apartment rental price of $1,260 a month across the entire city of Atlanta. Credit: ‘Buckhead Housing and Communting Study, Summer 2019’

Livable Buckhead has released a report that identifies three strategies to address the mismatch in housing costs and job location. Each strategy intends to enable those who don’t earn C-suite salaries to live closer to their workplaces in Buckhead, home of some of the city’s priciest rents and mortgages. The proximity of workforce housing to job centers would reduce the reliance on driving alone to and from work, thereby lessening the number of vehicles on city streets.

While the measures themselves may not break new ground, their significance stems from their sponsor. Livable Buckhead, a non-profit entity that seeks to foster the community, is comprised of regional leaders in sectors including housing, commercial real estate, retail and hospitality. PATH 400 is one of the organization’s signature achievements.

The three strategies are:

  • “Accommodate local workers in Buckhead;
  • “Build new workforce housing;
  • “Reduce car commutes for new residents.”

Influencers who serve on a steering committee overseeing the project include Sarah Kirsch, Urban Land Institute; Amanda Rhein, Atlanta Land Trust; Sally Silver, Atlanta City Council District 7; Penny Morceri, Atlanta Apartment Association, along with ranking representatives of governments and businesses that serve the region.

buckhead apartments, deliveries

The construction boom in Buckhead during the current decade is on track to deliver about three-quarters of the units built in Buckhead during the 20-year period from 1990 through 2009. Credit: ‘Buckhead Housing and Communting Study, Summer 2019’

The lead consultant is HRA Advisors. Its previous work in the region includes two projects for MARTA: A revenue and ridership analysis of commuter parking and transit oriented development; and an analysis of how its affordable housing policy affected joint development of TOD proposals.

The study began with a review of traffic and lifestyle patterns. Results confirm suppositions.

Traffic congestion is getting worse in Buckhead – traffic counts have risen by 76 percent in the past decade. Solo car trips are the norm. Some 92 percent of staffers live outside the region. An estimated 70 percent of all staffers drive to work. If housing prices weren’t so high, a significant proportion of these staffers would reside in Buckhead – closer to their jobs and not stuck in traffic.

Parking is one sacred cow that could be altered, according to the report, Buckhead Housing and Commuting Study, Summer 2019.

Parking costs historically have been rolled into cost of developing and maintaining a structure – often at a considerable expense. Surface parking lots are viewed as space wasters; structured parking is expensive to build and to maintain – consider only the maintenance cost of elevators. The report questions if this legacy should continue:

  • “Since the cost of one parking space is nearly equivalent to the cost of one additional subsidized unit in a mixed-income development, unbundling parking could have financial impacts on development feasibility.”
buckhead traffic

Traffic flows are so heavy in Buckhead that the closure of a lane of Peachtree Road at the Buckhead Triangle on Sept. 6 froze the flow of southbound vehicles to a point north of Piedmont Road. Credit: David Pendered

The notion of adjusting parking criteria isn’t new, but this prospect would push the boundaries of current practices. City codes already stipulate the number of parking spaces based on the square footage of a structure. Office developers have long responded with pricing programs that encourage staffers in a building to park off-site.

Livable Buckhead’s plan addresses a critical market reality: Not everyone who works in Buckhead wants to live there. Some may own a residence elsewhere, may have children enrolled in another school district, or have other reasons to reside elsewhere. The report observes that it attempts to incorporate these issues in its recommendations:

  • “[T]his study developed a set of factors that were assumed to correlate with a greater interest in moving to the types of units Buckhead is expected to produce in the future.
  • “We adjusted demand by owner/renter status, age, and household size to establish a conservative capturable demand projection by income and price point.”

Next steps call for the staff at Livable Buckhead to promote the plan among area business and convince at least some to implement proposals, at least on a trial basis.

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

2 replies
  1. Avatar
    John R. Adams says:

    The affordable housing that was on Lindbergh, right near the MARTA station, seemed to serve the need pretty well. It was torn down to make way for higher-priced housing. And now we realize that we need affordable housing, so subsidies will be provided to make this possible.

    What we have effectively done is allow a developer to tear down existing affordable housing, make a tidy profit, then allow the taxpayers to subsidize construction of new affordable housing. The flow of dollars is from taxpayers to developers. Follow this?Report

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Genevieve Schmit says:

      Amen!
      And, I keep asking this question, because I live in Garden Hills: despite the addition of literally _thousands_ of condominiums and townhomes within a 5 mile radius of my home….and the attendant increased traffic flow through our neighborhood….why were our property taxes nearly doubled last year? WHERE ARE OUR TAX DOLLARS SPENT?Report

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.