Decatur’s affordable housing dilemma

I have an update on Decaturish this week about the city’s stalled cottage court development.

Originally conceived as a city-sponsored demonstration project to encourage denser, smaller, more affordable residential development, the plans have been in limbo since 2016.

A key challenge to building any affordable housing in Decatur is that the cost of land inside the city limits is now tops $1 million per acre. That, coupled with extremely high costs for labor and construction materials, makes it difficult to keep the finished product affordable to most metro residents.

Developers of new market-rate apartments in Decatur have told city leaders that their costs to build are around $300,000 per unit. With figures like that, it’s no mystery why the rents and list prices are what they are.

Unlike larger cities, Decatur is too small – with just over 24,000 residents – to qualify for federal grant programs that might subsidize affordable housing development. Instead, city leaders said at a recent work session that they intend to pursue alternatives like focusing on the preservation of existing older affordable housing, partnering with the Decatur Housing Authority or with DeKalb County to seek grant funding as a sub-recipient, and using mechanisms like tax-increment financing to support housing development in certain areas.

More information about affordable housing and the work of Decatur’s Affordable Housing Task Force can be found here and here.

Image credit: Jtmorgan via Wikimedia Commons.

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