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Institutional investors contribute to rising housing costs in DeKalb County

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Institutional investors contribute to rising housing costs in DeKalb County

A map of DeKalb County.

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor 

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb Commissioner Ted Terry led a two-part housing symposium last week with local industry experts. 

Panelists at the Aug, 17 discussions touched on homeownership rates for people of color, household income changes and inflation, rising utility rates and home efficiency, zoning, institutional investors, and more.   

Atlanta Civic Circle, Atlanta Regional Commission, Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership, and MicroLife Institute participated in the Aug. 17 virtual meeting. 

Mike Alexander, CEO of the Atlanta Regional Commission, delivered data on the housing market in Atlanta, housing economics, and what it all means for local governments. 

Since the pandemic began, the average housing value has gone up 44%, Alexander said. 

“It’s really unlike anything I’ve seen in housing data and my experience working on this for over 20 years,” said Alexander. 

Institutional investors are one driving force behind the rise in prices. About 11% of housing stock in DeKalb – 18,786 units out of 169,514 available units – is owned by institutional investors. 

Here’s a breakdown on institutional investors by Axios. The Big 6 institutional investors are Invitation Homes, First Key Homes, American Homes 4 Rent, Progress Residential, MainStreet Renewal and Tricon Residential. 

“I don’t believe there’s anything we can do at the local level [about institutional investors],” said Terry. “I believe the state and/or the federal government probably has something to say about it.” 

The implications of institutional investors reach across the lines of race and generational wealth.  

Alexander said, generally, a Black household has 10% of the wealth of a white household in the United States. In metro Atlanta, the homeownership gap between a Black household and a white household is about 25 percentage points.

The primary method of building wealth in low-income households is through homeownership, and the number of low-income households that own a home has dropped, according to ARC data.   

“There’s a dramatic difference in wealth in our region,” Alexander said. 

Enter Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP) – an organization that works to develop, finance and advocate for affordable housing. They’ve been around for 31 years, and preserved 300 housing units across DeKalb County by focusing on foreclosure recovery.

ANDP has two projects going in DeKalb County: Home South DeKalb, a three-year commitment of creating or preserving 100 homes within South DeKalb County, and Oak Cottage Court, a tiny home establishment and partnership with the city of Decatur that is prioritizing homeownership for city employees.    

“Everyone needs to have stable housing, and that will lead to better educational outcomes, health care outcomes and economic mobility. We have been very intentional, not only on creating affordability options or housing …  but also zeroing in on the racial gap that Mike Alexander mentioned,” said Ashani O’Mard, ANDP senior vice president.  

Building homes with intention is the goal of MicroLife Institute, run by Will Johnston. By building homes less than 1,000 square feet, the product is sustainable and energy efficient. 

“We need people exposed to these types of projects. We need to normalize other choices, not just single family,” said Johnston, executive director of MicroLife.

Today, in DeKalb County, one in three residents is a single person household. Yet, available housing is mainly single family homes with 2 or 3 bedrooms. 

What makes a community diverse is a diverse selection of housing options, said Johnston. 

“We are trying to look at walkability, connectivity and reweaving that social fabric, looking at this as more of a sociological side to help us come back together to be human,” said Johnston. 

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