Affordable Housing Crisis

By: Marnagee Scott

Last week, the Athens Area Habitat for Humanity Gala took place at the Foundry in downtown Athens. For several years, Habitat for Humanity has helped build and renovate homes for residents of Athens for less than $300 a month. In 2018, the average cost of rent per month for a three-bedroom apartment in Athens was $613. Housing costs at or below 30% of one’s income is considered affordable housing.

Affordable housing has substantial positive impacts on community development and future economic prosperity. Well-placed affordable housing can help relinquish the cost of other essential household needs such as healthcare, food, and education. Affordable housing in low-income communities, like Athens, prevents homelessness as well as shuffling of family units. The benefits children receive from living in stable homes contribute to success later in their lives. These children are more likely to do well in school, graduate high school, and attend college. Affordable housing gives low-income families the opportunity to find that desired stability.

Well-placed affordable housing developments allow communities to welcome a wide range of families and to create a vibrant, diverse, group of residents. Affordable housing brings substantial positive benefits to communities. However, demand for these homes far exceeds supply. This crisis is in part caused by the tough regulations cities have in place for constructing affordable housing developments. These include building codes, zoning requirements, and local land use regulations that limit accessible areas for affordable housing. For example, Athens has a minimum square footage of 600 feet in neighborhoods that are zoned multifamily. Athens Area Habitat for Humanity has created a potential unique solution to combat this issue. 

At this year’s annual gala, Habitat announced the design of a “kinda tiny home” that is constructed between 600-800 feet. These homes are big enough to fit in the current zoning laws, while also remaining small enough to be affordable. Leaders in Athens are working hard to find solutions and show results in the effort to ease the shortage of affordable housing. As more cities in Georgia innovate new concepts like the “kinda tiny home”, Georgia will be closer to producing effective and feasible housing solutions.

Andrew Jakabovics, Lynn M. Ross, Molly Simpson, and Michael Spotts, Bending the Cost Curve: Solutions to Expand the Supply of Affordable Rentals(Washington, DC: Urban Land Institute, 2014)

The Housing Affordability Gap for Extremely Low-Income Renters in 2014. (2017). Urban Institute. ttps://www.urban.org/research/publication/housing-affordability-gap-extremely-low-income-renters-2014

Is Athens Ready to Downsize to ‘Kinda Tiny’ Homes?. (2019). Flagpole Magazine | Athens, GA News, Music, Arts, Restaurants, from https://flagpole.com/news/news-features/2018/07/25/is-athens-ready-to-downsize-to-kinda-tiny-homes

“Michael Thurmond To Speak At Athens Area Habitat Annual Gala.” Athens Area Habitat for Humanity. N. p., 2018.