Cherokee County is conducting a study of the supply and demand for all types of housing in our county. The main driver of the study is the perception that we have a shortage of affordable housing, especially workforce housing.
What do we mean by affordable and workforce housing?
Affordable housing generally means that a family doesn’t have to spend more than 30% of its income on housing. That can vary widely. An elderly person living on a Social Security check of $1,700 per month needs a safe and comfortable home for less than $500 per month. That’s challenging to find, and may require a subsidy in most cases. But, there’s a need for some of that. Working people, in unskilled jobs that pay $10 per hour, are in the same boat. Part of the solution is workforce development; a topic for another column.
Workforce housing generally refers to homes that are affordable for mid-income people with steady employment in essential fields such as police, firefighting, teaching, nursing, mechanics, and skilled building and manufacturing trades. They make a decent income, maybe $40,000 to $50,000 per year, meaning they typically can afford about $1,000 to $1,250 per month in housing cost. Unfortunately, even apartment rents now start at the high end of that range.
Most of us still aspire to home ownership. It’s good for the community, because homeowners put down roots and get more involved. A housing budget of $1,000 to $1,250 per month will buy a home valued at about $185,000 to $225,000. That’s with 10% down and a 30-year mortgage at 4%, including estimated taxes and insurance. Here’s the rub: There are very few homes available in that price range.
So, what do we do? Higher density lowers costs, but goes against the county’s efforts to restrain residential growth reasonably. High-density can be OK in cities and some other areas, but that’s where land prices are the highest. What about tiny houses? They’re fairly expensive, per square foot, but can be low-priced overall. And, how do we keep low-cost housing from deteriorating into low-quality housing?
Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. But we are working to find real, viable solutions that work for us all.
After the data gathering stage of the housing study, we’ve engaged some housing experts from the Atlanta Regional Commission to help us formulate a plan. But, mostly, we need your ideas. We conducted a public survey in February and March that is now closed, so, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, about this or anything else.
– Harry Johnston, chairman of the Cherokee County Board of Commissioners.