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How ARC’s new housing data tool guides leaders toward affordability solutions

Sean Keenan

Discussing metro Atlanta’s housing affordability issues is much like discussing climate change, said Dave Stockert, former CEO of Post Properties. “This conversation is not going away.”

Last week, during the quarterly convention of the Atlanta Regional Housing Forum, Stockert lamented that the affordability pitfalls in the city and beyond are going to be “a top-of-mind issue for the foreseeable future.”

To accommodate the population boom metro Atlanta is expecting — about 3 million more people coming to the region in the next three decade, Atlanta Regional Commission data indicates — some 45,000 dwelling units would need to be created each year, Stockert said. For context, that’s like erecting between 130 and 150 residential high-rises each year, he added.

Enter the Atlanta Regional Commission with a new online tool to help inform metro communities on how to address housing-related issues with the help of a sweeping database built by the agency.

The app, found at MetroATLhousing.org, is designed to inform people — namely civic leaders — help them pore through and interpret the myriad data, and take action. “Educate. Analyze. Act,” ARC senior planner Marisa Ghani explained.

Last Thursday, Ghani took attendees through simulations of what public officials from places like Cobb County or Norcross might encounter. The latter, for instance, has suffered major losses of multi-family residences for nearly a decade, dealing a blow to the area’s affordability.

The new tool provides a quick arsenal of “top strategies” to address the housing issues each respective community faces. If officials aren’t thrilled with the options presented at first, they can click into a portal that outlines different courses of action, Ghani explained.

The software offers ideas based on ARC’s Regional Housing Strategy, which was unveiled last month, and depends on which submarket is being researched, Ghani said. Possible suggestions include beefing up the area’s housing stock, preserving the supply of affordable residences and reducing housing and transportation costs.

Bill Bolling, founder of the forum and Thursday’s moderator, said the ARC tool is an answer to political pandering. “When public officials tell you, ‘I’ll look into it,’ you can say, ‘Here’s where to look,’” he said.

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