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Sustainable Communities Thought Leadership

We must all work together to keep the American Dream alive

By Karen Hatcher, CPM

The housing market is hot, and sellers are realizing considerable increases in property values. According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta’s latest Home Ownership Affordability Monitor, Metro Atlanta is no longer affordable. Historically low inventory, rising prices, and inflation is forcing Atlanta to look at creating real, sustainable solutions that will foster thriving communities and long-term affordable housing needs for residents.

We have seen various housing types introduced by developers over the decades to increase affordability. The mounting demand for affordable housing in our city and throughout our region means we must look even more closely at the barriers and roles at play.

Density – Where is best? What is right? And what are we willing to give up to gain the units needed to foster a healthy housing environment? These are questions communities must ask themselves. With rising land costs, developers seek to upzone single-family residential property to lower the land cost per unit. Reducing the land cost per unit can create low-density housing options, and the savings passed on to the homeowner or renter.

Trees – We love our “city in a forest.” It is a beautiful attribute for Atlanta. But we must explore the costs of denying or delaying additional housing units to save a tree. The hot seller’s market in Atlanta means something different for prospective homebuyers, especially first-time and lower-income buyers. Homeownership is at risk for many citizens, and it’s not entirely out of our hands. Real estate professionals, sellers, the community, developers, and local governments all have a role to play in fostering balance in the market.

Diversity in Housing Stock – In Atlanta’s bustling urban core, neighborhoods are growing, businesses are opening, and residents need diverse housing options. Having a variety of price points for housing allows multiple income brackets to buy a home and become a part of the community.

Our soon-to-be-announced Aspire Collection will be the first affordable option of its kind — truly embodying the sustainable definition of “places where people want to live and work, now and in the future.” This collection is an opportunity for entrepreneurs to operate their business on the lower level and live on the two floors above. Developed by a partnership of Sovereign Construction & Development, Sovereign Realty & Management, and Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, these units will be available to those earning less than 120% of the area median income. These live/work homes are just one example of the variety needed in affordable housing. They sustain livelihoods, encourage entrepreneurship, strengthen communities, and ultimately help close the wealth gap.

Every community fosters a culture while weighing layers of needs and contributions by its residents. But there is a growing gap for first-time and low-income buyers, making homeownership further out of reach. The music schoolteacher that teaches private lessons at their home in the evenings, the neighborhood trainer or yoga instructor, the attorney or accountant that just launched their business, the small business manager that lives in the neighborhood, the young college graduate or new couple ready to start their life together, the restaurant manager that shouldn’t have to drive 25 miles to get home after closing because they could afford to buy a home in the community where they work and play. These are just a few examples of the missing middle housing stock in our city.

We all play a crucial role in advocating for healthy, sustainable communities, ownership, and affordability. We should be involved where community planning and development is taking place. We must all work together to keep the American dream alive.

Karen Hatcher, CPM is CEO of Sovereign Realty & Management and 2022 President of the Atlanta REALTORS Association.


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