Atlanta is all about growth.
Since its founding as Terminus, growth has been Atlanta’s No. 1 industry. Boom or bust, up or down, Atlanta has stretched its arms around its unlimited geographic boundaries and embraced relocating businesses, expansive retail centers and swaths of new neighborhoods. We have either been chastised as the poster child for unrestrained growth or heralded as the champion of progressive economies. Atlanta has had no middle ground.
The powers of Atlanta’s housing industry grasped the opportunities of growth by the tail and for the most part held tight to this serpent through countless cycles, only to rebound time and time again.
Atlanta attracts people — migratory people. That is what it does best, and that fuels housing. Whether the newcomers rent or buy condos, apartments, affordable homes or Buckhead estates, 100 percent of this population needs a roof over its head. That spells an ever-sustainable need for housing products in all price points and in all directions.
Atlanta is a jobs and opportunity mecca for the best and brightest college graduates. We are an affordable migratory point for corporate and midlevel businesses. Our moderate four-season climate, low tax rates and outstanding health care delivery system drive all housing sectors. You have never heard anyone say that they can’t wait to retire to Milwaukee or Buffalo.
We are much more than water towers emblazoned with mantras like “Success Lives Here.” Atlanta has the frontier spirit of entrepreneurship. We have a boundless, optimistic, energetic vision and a Southern progressiveness that is woven into the fabric of every neighborhood, school district and township.
Quality housing stock creates jobs. Our housing affordability attracts a quality workforce, and a quality workforce attracts new business — the cycle of a sustainable and quality lifestyle.
We saw more than 425,000 single-family homes built between 2000 and 2009. Before that, 359,000 were built in the 1990s. Today, First Metro Listing Service data points to fewer than 16,000 homes available, a 3 1/2-month supply. Single-family inventory hovers at zero, with no uptick in sight.
In the Great Recession, our once-vibrant builder sector evaporated with a loss of 80 percent to 85 percent of the workforce, creating cracks in our sustainable housing formula. The Atlanta housing industry has cleaned itself up and then some, but without an influx of capital, the redevelopment of our labor base and a more relaxed lending climate, the industry will remain largely stagnant.
In 2013, a scant 14,000 new homes will be built versus a demand of at least double that. Thankfully, the national guys — Pulte, D.R. Horton and others — are building product with their Wall Street capital. But it is the Atlanta builder entrepreneurship that needs a reincarnation to sustain the region’s voracious housing appetite.
It is time to dust off our pants, refresh our game plans, create a financial builder/developer support system and start the construction engines. Full throttle.
By: Frank K. Norton Jr., President of the Norton Agency, a Gainesville-based real estate company