Commentary: Before Atlanta even thinks about winning Amazon’s HQ2, it needs to get serious about housing
Two Atlanta affordable housing experts weigh in
Late last year, more than 238 cities across the United States and Canada entered the biggest corporate relocation sweepstakes in recent memory: the contest to win Amazon’s second North American headquarters. Known as HQ2, the project is massive, promising to create approximately 50,000 jobs (the average salary of which would be $100,000) for the city selected. Politicians and business leaders have promised the online retailer free land, billions of dollars in incentives, and infrastructure fixes; the DeKalb County city of Stonecrest has offered to make a mini-city and name Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as mayor. Others, including Atlanta and the state of Georgia, have remained tight-lipped about their bid package.
People love debating which cities might land on Amazon’s shortlist and why their city—including Atlanta, which has been pegged as a potential location—deserves to win the contest. We love thinking about what the headquarters might look like. But all those employees will need somewhere to live. And the effect that 50,000 people—in addition to the companies that follow, along with the regular population growth—would have on Atlanta would be immense.
Does Atlanta need to require new apartment buildings to include affordable units? Should the city buy land now before a population boom begins? Or is the housing crunch caused more by supply and demand, and we simply need to build more? We asked Ben King, a development manager at an Atlanta-based affordable housing developer and real estate wonk, and Dan Immergluck, a professor at Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute and an often-quoted expert on affordable housing, to sift through the issues. —Thomas Wheatley