Metro Atlantans have been groaning the last few years about the lack of affordable housing. Well folks, at least for the time being, it seems folks in other big cities have more to groan about.
Two online money management sites, Nerdwallet and Walletwyse, have both named Atlanta as a top-10 affordable big city. Each has its own criteria for making the list, but each also put Atlanta right at the top.
When I first read the article on the Curbed.com site, I was a bit skeptical. I’ve been settling on the idea that Atlanta had become too expensive to be on these types of lists. Our city is widely accepted as one of the most successful business cities in the country. We have the eighth most Fortune 1,000 companies headquartered here, we have a very diverse mix of industries, we have almost 250,000 college students ready to become part of our workforce, and we are creating nearly 60,000 new jobs every year. We got this way really because of our weather (no hurricanes, floods or earthquakes), our airport and yes, our affordability.
When I was growing up in Roswell, compared to today, there really wasn’t a lot to do in the metro Atlanta area. If you were an adult in the suburbs and went out for a good time, you drove to your favorite restaurant with a bar in it. And that restaurant was by itself, meaning, if you wanted to go to another one afterwards, you’d have to get back in your car and drive there. If you went out in Atlanta, you went to major venues like the Fox Theater, the Omni or Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. Since then, local governments, our business community and other non-profit organizations have spent big on infrastructure to develop entertainment districts throughout the metro area. And today you could hop from city to city and have something new and different to do every weekend of the year.
It’s added some serious style to our city. No longer do you move to Atlanta just because of the practicality of good jobs, affordable housing and easy access to an airport for travel. You also get to be near the Beltline, or near Canton Street in Roswell, Avalon in Alpharetta, or downtown Duluth or Suwanee. It has created centers of high-demand properties that have driven up prices for those properties.
Couple this renaissance with the low unemployment and scarcity of large swaths of undeveloped land that has driven up the costs of building a new home, and prices have gone up further. We’ve been averaging about a 5 percent increase in home values for the last 10 years. I just assumed that the good folks at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce were having to lean more on our city’s diverse and exciting qualify of life over our affordability to bring in new businesses. But apparently, they can still pitch both.
Nerdwallet actually took the fastest growing metro areas in the country and ranked them by affordability. It ranked Atlanta as No. 1. Its formula was fairly simple. It looked at the average principal and interest mortgage payment as a percentage of the median monthly income. They said at $62,613, Atlantans had the fifth-highest household income of the cities in the report with an average P&I payment of $950. We were just ahead of Houston, Dallas, Washington D.C., Austin and Tampa.
Walletwyse used its Affordability Index to rank its cities. It wasn’t exactly clear how they arrived at their index numbers, but Atlanta got the Gold Award, putting it just ahead of Minneapolis, Houston, Chicago and Tampa. It cited low-priced housing combined with a thriving, bona-fide big city as a reason for its high ranking. It also cited its “massive network of buses, trains and highways.”
That was another head-turner for me. But hey, sometimes you don’t have to be truly amazing, you just have to be better than everyone else. And if you look at all the businesses that keep moving here and staying here, apparently we are. Cheers.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group