Report: Cobb County tops the list of places where the rent is too damn high for poor people

Things aren’t much better in DeKalb or Gwinnett.

Well, no matter how statisticians choose to quantify the chasm between the country’s “haves” and “have-nots,” metro Atlanta keeps coming out on top. Last month, a Brookings Institution report showed that the city of Atlanta ranks top for income inequality. Last summer, analysis by Harvard and Berkeley researchers showed that metro Atlanta has the lowest rate of social mobility. And back in spring 2013, another Brookings study showed that the metro region has one of the fastest growing rates of suburban poverty.

Perhaps that escalation in suburban poverty is a reason that three metro counties are among the top 10 nationally for lack of affordable housing. And, according to the Urban Institute, nowhere is affordable housing more scarce than Cobb County.

Nationally, there are just 29 rental units for every 100 “extremely low-income,” or ELI, households. As classified by the department of Housing and Urban Development, ELI households have incomes of 30 percent or less of the median for their area. In metro Atlanta, where the median income is about $55,000, that would be households that earn $16,500 or less.

The researchers used the number of ELI households and the number of affordable rentals in each of the counties to calculate the number of low-priced units for every 100 poor houseolds. In Cobb County, that rate is 2.8. Yes, that is less than three affordable units for every 100 poor families.

The county with the most affordable rentals: Suffolk, Massachusetts, which has 50.4 per 100 poor households.

Following are the 10 counties with the biggest rental gaps. The number that follows the county name is the number of affordable units per 100 ELI households:

  1. Cobb County, Georgia,  2.8
  2. Lee County, Florida, 9.0
  3. Denton County, Texas, 9/5
  4. Clark County, Nevada, 12.3
  5. Travis County, Texas, 13.1
  6. Orange County, Florida, 13.2
  7. Gwinnett County, Georgia, 13.7
  8. Maricopa County, Arizona, 14.1
  9. Broward County, Florida, 14.3
  10. DeKalb County, Georgia, 14.5

The availability of affordable housing is also related to available subsidized housing. The researchers estimate that without subsidies, the number of affordable units per 100 poor households would fall from 29 to 1.

As the report’s authors note on the Urban Institute’s Metro Trends blog, this is a category of housing private developers stay clear of:

Why isn’t the private market filling this gap? The answer is relatively simple. With a few exceptions, the economics do not pencil out. Without subsidy, private developers cannot build or operate a new unit of rental housing at a cost ELI households can afford to pay.

The Urban Institute has created an interactive map of affordable housing. You can explore it here:

h/t  Atlantic Cities, a Metro Trends partner, which re-published the Urban Institute report.