More than a third of households in Sandy Springs pay so much for their housing that they are considered cost-burdened by it, consultants creating a housing needs assessment say.

Consultants with HR&A Advisors told the City Council on Oct. 20 that the average household earning less than $50,000 annually is pays more than 30% of its income in housing.

Consultants Phillip Kash and Matthew Bedsol said presented a preview of the city’s Housing Needs Assessment. More than 12,000 renter households make less than $54,000. Almost 3,500 owner-occupied households make $53,000 or less.

The gap between median renter income and median owner income is at its lowest since 2011, dropping to $76,000. For homeowners, the median income is $131,000. But for renters, the median income is $55,000.

Almost two-thirds of the housing units built in Sandy Springs since 2010 have been multi-family, making it the central driver of the city’s growth, the consultants said. Bedsole said 6,011 housing units have been built since 2010, with 4,377, or 65%, of them multifamily units.

Renter households increased by 3,600 between 2011 and 2018 to 24,010. Rental households include rented houses, townhomes, condos and apartments. Owner-occupied homes rose by 1,400 in that same time to 21,823. That meant renters comprised 52% of the city’s households, compared to 48% who were owner-occupants.

The city designed the assessment to review existing housing conditions; demographic and market demands; housing gaps and issues; current and anticipated unmet housing needs; and an outlook of anticipated housing demands over the next 10 years. Kash and Bedsole will provide additional updates before the final report, due by the end of the year. The City Council could then use the report to set goals and develop or change housing and development policies for those goals.

The assessment comes at a time when the city is promoting redevelopment along Roswell Road in the North End, where there are many older shopping centers and apartment complexes.

The median household income is lowest in the multi-family communities in the North End centered along Roswell Road, designated as subarea 7 in the assessment. Household incomes in that area range from $50,000 to just under $100,000. The southwestern parts of the city, and its northeastern panhandle have the highest for household incomes, reaching $150,000 or more. The city’s median household income is $74,100.

Subarea 7 had 9,900 renter-occupied units and 2,500 owner-occupied units in 2018. Subarea 1, the southwestern portion of the city, had the highest median home values at $854,000.

The city has a concept study underway for theoretical redevelopments of four shopping centers in the North End. The effort has sparked some concerns about gentrification from such groups as Sandy Springs Together and was a topic brought up by residents in a recent city program of discussions about “Inclusion and Diversity.”

Mayor Rusty Paul told the consultants that he is worried about older apartment developments falling prey to gentrification. Paul asked them about the likelihood of multi-family developments in the North End being torn down for redevelopment, which would result in existing tenants losing their homes.

Kash told Paul and the council that high property values and city code enforcement make it less likely that aging homes will fall into disrepair, though absentee landlords could be a worry.

Kash said a developer would need to increase the number of apartments by 50%, drastically increasing housing density on the property, to make redevelopment worthwhile for investors. Just rebuilding the same number of units and increasing rent wouldn’t bring a big enough return on investments to be worthwhile.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.