Affordable Housing Inventory

One of SMART ALEC’s recommended best practices for affordable housing is for local jurisdictions to create an Affordable Housing Inventory.

The purpose of an Affordable Housing Inventory is for a City or County to better understand the affordability of its entire housing stock.

Most cities grapple with fully understanding its housing costs, many relying on U.S. Census data, which poses several shortcomings.

For a local jurisdiction to set a meaningful affordable housing goal, it needs to understand what is already has in place, so that this can be compared to the incomes of its residents–both current residents and anticipated future residents–in order for the jurisdiction to know what it needs.

The Affordable Housing Inventory is a data tool that combines information about public housing and publicly-subsidized housing units, with information about the cost of housing units that receive no subsidy and are thus on the private market.  Sometimes, the private market can include what is often referred as naturally occurring affordable housing, or NOAH.  The Affordable Housing Inventory provides information about both naturally-occurring affordable housing units and publicly-driven affordable housing units, in addition to units that are not affordable.

SMART ALEC conducted our very first Affordable Housing Inventory on behalf of the City of Clarkston, Georgia, in 2018.  We received a contract from the City of Clarkston to complete the inventory, conduct community engagement, and draft several pieces of affordable housing legislation.

We produced a Housing Strategy for the City of Clarkston, which contains the Housing Inventory, both the findings and our methods.

We were able to produce a chart summarizing Clarkston’s entire housing stock, including how many units were affordable of each housing type (apartments versus single-family homes and condominiums), at each bracket of affordability: zero to thirty percent of the Area Median Income; thirty to fifty percent of AMI; fifty to eighty percent AMI; and eighty and above.

Here is the combined findings table we produced for Clarkston:

0-30 AMI 30-50 AMI 50-80 AMI 80+
Houses and Condominiums 395 360 187 17
Apartments 51 (all vouchers) 265 3,450 98
Total 446 625 3,637 115

The City of Atlanta has also adopted an Affordable Housing Inventory ordinance in 2017 drafted by SMART ALEC, although it has not yet implemented the ordinance.

As part of our recommended strategies for implementation, especially for larger cities, is to require that residential lessors file an annual addendum to their occupational or business tax annual filing.  This information will also help local governments make sure they are assessing correct volume-based business taxes, while providing the City with valuable data to understand its housing needs.

We believe that the Affordable Housing Inventory and Affordable Housing Impact Statements work best together, especially in conjunction with an affordable housing goal.  Ideally, the affordable housing goal is the difference between the affordable housing units in the housing stock, as revealed in the Inventory, and the needs of the local residents, as driven by their incomes: in other words, to house everybody.

The Inventory focuses on what a City or County currently has at any point in time.   The Affordable Housing Impact Statements help local governments understand the estimated impacts of their public policy decisions upon their existing affordable housing stock.  If local governments have a goal, then AHIS tells the local government how each decision helps them get closer to or further away from that goal.  But the adoption of a meaningful goal is only made possible by the Affordable Housing Inventory.

We recommend that legislative branches of local governments consider introducing an ordinance requiring an Affordable Housing Inventory at regular intervals, especially for larger cities with more resources.  In Clarkston, we received public input calling for an Inventory every four years, so that each Mayor and Council could be judged for their progress on affordable housing.

We are familiar with state preemption issues that may exist in state laws that could be relevant to Affordable Housing Inventories; and we have suggested strategies to complete an Affordable Housing Inventory even in a state, like Georgia, with an affirmative preemption.


Atlanta’s Affordable Housing Inventory ordinance (2017):

Clarkston Affordable Housing Inventory (2018); Draft Ordinances for Affordable Housing Inventory and Amending Business Tax Annual Renewal Process to Provide Multi-family Rental Data Collection