Thirteen developments bringing 469 new homes and representing more than $110 million in value are set to pop up by the end of 2017.
Many are projects stalled by the housing crisis of the Great Recession. Others will take the place of federally subsidized government housing torn down in favor of Section 8 housing vouchers.
The majority of the developments are in the high $300,000s with a few reaching into the $700,000 to $1 million range. Two single-family developments are marketed in the mid to upper $100,000 range along with a condo development advertised in the $150,000s for a one-bedroom or studio.
Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly told her elected colleagues at a meeting earlier this month the city needs more options for first-time home buyers.
“I would really like to see housing where our teachers, firefighters and our WellStar Kennestone folks … and the folks we have working in the city can live and fully appreciate the concept of live, work and play,” Kelly said.
Kelly recalled her first experience as a homebuyer when she bought a home with her husband. Both working professionals, Kelly said they could not afford a home inside the Marietta limits.
“My whole message around affordable housing is allowing a mixed use of incomes being able to create an entire neighborhood of new and single-family homes that people can really buy into and enjoy,” Kelly said.
Mayor Steve Tumlin says there is a need for more affordable housing in Marietta, but it’s difficult to encourage private developers to build lower cost homes.
Developers have to account for the amount spent on the land for construction.
Few lots exist in Marietta, and in some parts of Cobb, Tumlin said, that are inexpensive enough to allow for moderately priced housing.
“Being where we are we don’t have 100 acres of unused property that would be conducive for this,” Tumlin said.
Kelly agrees it’s difficult to convince private developers to build more affordable homes.
“A developer wants to make a buck,” Kelly said. “They want to maximize their profit. I get it. It makes good business sense.”
There may be programs in existence, she said, under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that can help the city attract affordable housing.
Still, price tags on new construction have fallen from the high costs seen before the Great Recession.
Many of the homes expected to be marketed between $300,000 and $500,000 in Marietta were originally planned to be more than $750,000 and reaching into the millions before the housing crisis held the projects hostage and drove down prices.
“I’m delighted we’re not that high anymore,” Tumlin said.
Down payment assistance running dry
Marietta officials are trying to balance the ratio of rental housing as compared to owner-occupied housing in the city.
Nationwide, the average of homeowners is 60 percent versus 40 percent rental. According to the 2010 Census, Marietta had a 42.3 percent ownership rate and a rental rate of 57.7 percent.
“Our goal was to have a better balance between rental and residential housing,” Tumlin said.
Ray Buday, executive director of the Marietta Housing Authority, said supporting home ownership in Marietta is particularly important because of the city’s disproportionate housing ratio.
“Originally when we sold the Meeting Park property we got a lot of money out of that and part of it we set aside for down payment assistance for the low-income,” Buday said of the property that once contained federally subsidized housing.
Down payment assistance loans of up to $10,000, more than that if you are a teacher or public-safety employee, were offered with half the “loan” being forgiven if the homeowner stayed in the house for five years.
In the past six years, Buday said the Housing Authority has produced 122 homeowners who went through a housing counseling program and received down payment assistance.
But that money ran out.
“We’re constantly searching for money for down payment assistance,” Buday said. “We’ve been pretty successful with that.”