In the second half of the 20th century, developers built thousands of apartment complexes around metro Atlanta – some with just two to five units, and some with as many as 700 units. Today, because of their age and location, many of these apartment units are relatively affordable to low-income households even though they have no affordable housing subsidies. This type of housing is called “Naturally-Occurring Affordable Housing,” or NOAH for short.
As developers and investors see Atlanta’s growth and the country’s rising demand for rental housing, they are funneling their investments into multifamily developments. Due to the scarcity of affordable housing subsidies and the cost of land, construction, & regulations, much of this investment is going into luxury apartments and apartment renovations. In some instances, this involves upgrading NOAH and raising its rents, and in other instances, this results in tearing down NOAH and replacing it with luxury developments. Even developers and owners committed to affordability lack the resources to keep rents low within their developments.
As a result, low-income families can no longer afford the neighborhoods where they previously lived. The high rents displace them – often to lesscentral areas of metro Atlanta that may lack good schools, local jobs, public transit, grocery stores, or other neighborhood amenities.
To support metro Atlanta in addressing its affordability challenge, this report explores the following research question: How can Metro Atlanta leverage currently-unsubsidized, naturally-occurring affordable housing to support affordable opportunity for low-income families?
Note that preserving NOAH has the potential to house lower-income households earning between 30% and 80% of Area Median Income, but not extremely low-income households or those experiencing homelessness. Other approaches beyond what is mentioned in this document – and, frankly, deep public subsidy – will be needed to support metro Atlanta’s poorest families.