A member of the panel charged with recommending updates to Sandy Springs’ comprehensive plan said people moving into the city with today’s housing costs could drive out those living in or seeking workforce or affordable housing.
Trisha Thompson, a member of the Next Ten advisory committee, raised concerns about what is happening in nearby areas. For example, Roswell placed an apartment development ban other than allowing rental units in mixed-use projects. East Cobb voters, who will decide through an election this year whether to form a city, are vocal about pushing against high density, which she said is code for apartments.
On May 12, the Next Ten committee shared their thoughts and suggestions to the City Council, making recommendations about how the comprehensive plan should be updated.
Thompson suggested that staff keep track of what happens in those two areas and how it affects population growth and housing in Sandy Springs.
“We have to be mindful of the population increase that might go even beyond what’s expected. For the projections, population growth over the next 10, 15, 20, 25 years, we might push right through that because people will not have any other place to go,” Thompson said.
Committee member James Bostic said a conundrum exists with Mayor Rusty Paul’s directive that the city needs affordable housing.
“We’ve got to provide residences for people that are going to move into our area because we’re economically desirable,” he said.
That’s tough because the city has very little affordable single-family housing, he said.
Cost factors are making it impossible for workforce housing in the city, Bostic said. Unless all the police, firefighters and teachers get “one hell of a pay increase,” all those people won’t have the ability to live in Sandy Springs.
Some people jump to the conclusion that affordable housing and apartments are synonymous, Councilman Andy Bauman said. New apartment developments are priced too high even for the workers such as physical therapists unless they share an apartment’s space and costs, he said.
Housing cost calculations fail to account for transportation costs that are higher because of housing clusters and a lack of mass transit for most of the city, Bauman said. The cost of living on housing and transportation is really high, and reports on inflation show that it is far worse.
“I can safely tell you that on multiple levels, councilmembers are acutely aware – I’ve been well aware –that we have housing challenges. We have more awareness of the issue than solutions, that’s for sure,” Bauman said.
Committee member Ronda Smith suggested that a healthy review needs to be completed of the city’s small area plans for places such as the Roswell Road corridor, crossroads at 285 and Roswell Road and Powers Ferry. The city hasn’t examined the plans to determine if they are too aspirational or not enough, feasible or not, she said.
“Those specific locations that were earmarked as small area plans that have very specific goals for development, do we really need to take a comprehensive review of where we are now versus where we thought we might be at this point in five years?” Smith asked.