Councilwoman: First-time buyers need more options
by Nikki Wiley
February 08, 2014 04:00 AM | 3843 views | 8 8 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly inquires about the state of budgetary matters for the city at a council retreat Saturday at the Hillton Hotel and Conference Center. <br> Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marietta City Councilwoman Michelle Cooper Kelly inquires about the state of budgetary matters for the city at a council retreat Saturday at the Hillton Hotel and Conference Center.
Staff/Jeff Stanton
MARIETTA — More than 450 residential housing units are expected to be built in Marietta, many in the $300,000 to $700,000 range, over the next three years, but one elected official is asking the city to make an effort to attract more affordable housing.

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.”

Comments-icon Post a Comment
February 08, 2014
There isn't a shortage of low-cost "previously-owned" housing in Marietta or Cobb. Just because some cannot afford new construction doesn't mean there is a a problem with affordable housing.

There are plenty of BMW 5-series for sale in Atlanta too but most middle class people buy used Hondas and don't complain that new BMWs are too expensive.

There are many homes in the $100,000-$200,000 range for sale in Cobb County and Marietta.
Marietta resident
February 08, 2014
Great idea. Maybe we can attract some Dollar stores and abandoned grocery stores too, while high- end restaurants and shops continue opening in east Cobb.
February 08, 2014
When are politicians going to realize that helping people to buy homes they can't afford is what caused the huge housing bubble several years ago. If someone cant afford to make a down payment on a home, chances are they aren't going to be able to afford the monthly payments on the mortgage either. You would think we would have learned from our mistakes of the past. Guess not.
Mike In Smyrna
February 08, 2014
This is so wrong - Why is it politicians and do-gooder know what is best for the unwashed. Perhaps the minions do not want to live in Marietta. Perhaps they would prefer to be surrounded by their own and live in Smyrna, Powder Springs, Austell or maybe Dallas.

Will the eateries around the square have early bird specials for the minions? If a minion works in east Cobb and lives in Fulton County can they apply for minion housing? When bragging about having friends that are minions, do blue eye minions trump brown eye minions?

Thought – The Marietta Development Authority could purchase property and sell it to Habitat for Humanity.

No Snob
February 08, 2014
Ms. Kelly, your point is well taken and Mayor Tumlin is correct when he says the developers/builders cannot be made to build less expensive houses. Ones in the $150,000-$225,000 range would be nice. Because what the people in Marietta do not reason out is the Marietta school system is becoming one of 2 opposites- very low income student families and the very high income student families. Also, the very high income families tend to be older people (hitting the 62 age & paying NO school taxes), whose children are already out of school or the very high income family who have the children in private school.

So Mrs. Kelly, don't let the powers that be fool you with their feelings. Many of them cannot see any further than their nose & do not realize our school system and tax base needs these families who would buy homes in the $150,000 to $300,000.
Just Wait
February 08, 2014
She is absolutely correct. However, there is no money in cheap houses for the builders.
End the Insanity
February 08, 2014
No one and I mean no one should buy a home unless they can come up with at least a 10 percent down payment ON THEIR OWN.... There are sound reasons for this requirement and nuts like Ms. Kelly and her warped thinking are part of the reason the real estate boom went bust. Foreclosures hurt everyone the irresponsible and responsible alike. Its proven that those who aren't disciplined enough to save for a home are statically more prone to foreclosure. South Cobb is a perfect example of what I'm talking about and I should know, I live here.....
Sam's mom
February 08, 2014
There's plenty of "affordable housing" options on Franklin Road...gangland central
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