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‘Cash is king’ – DeKalb County leaders search for solutions to housing shortage

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‘Cash is king’ – DeKalb County leaders search for solutions to housing shortage

Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson. Photo provided to Decaturish

By Cathi Harris, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County’s simmering affordable housing crisis is rapidly reaching a boiling point, housing advocates warned Thursday. And, the long-term consequences could be dire for the entire county.

On a webinar convened by District 7 County Commissioner Lorraine Cochran-Johnson, community leaders from both the public and private sector gathered to learn more about the current realities and discuss potential solutions.

“Our homeless population is about to increase in ways you have never seen,” said Carne Mahone, executive director of Morningstar Urban Development, which provides counseling and assistance to lower-income homeowners and renters at risk of foreclosure and eviction. “If you think it is bad now, you just wait.”

Her company is currently overwhelmed with renters who have good credit and housing history, but are facing homelessness because the property owner wants to take advantage of rising home prices and sell. Still others are behind on rent or in default on their mortgage due to job loss during the pandemic, she said.

They will be joining the already large number of people who were priced out of available housing before the pandemic.

DeKalb County has about 4,600 available housing vouchers to subsidize rent for lower-income DeKalb residents, said John Corcoran, president of the Housing Development Corporation, which works with the DeKalb Housing Authority to provide affordable housing in the county. DeKalb currently has a waiting list of 45,000 people who qualify for vouchers, but there are none available.

“We do prioritize county residents, but we typically only are able to move someone off the waiting list when someone else leaves the program, or they pass away. It is not even like we have 4,600 available every year. It’s just a small fraction of that and it isn’t enough,” he said.

And it’s not just renters and lower-income borrowers who are feeling the pinch, added Fariz Morani, a mortgage loan officer with Access Loans and Financing. Middle- and higher-income earners looking to buy a home in DeKalb are getting into bidding wars with real estate investors who can afford to make all-cash offers and waive contingencies.

“I have seen people take money out of 401(k)s or burning through their savings to get into these homes,” he notes. “I always advise people not to overpay a significant amount [above list] because the market won’t be like this forever. There are other ways we can talk about being competitive without paying too much to compete with investors.”

Most buyers have already had to do away with traditional protections like appraisal and inspection contingencies, if they want to be the winning bid.

To read the full story on Tucker Observer, click here

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