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'We Got All We Need': Sandy Springs Plans To Reject New Apartments For 3 Years

The mayor of Sandy Springs, Georgia, told developers at a Bisnow event last week not to bother proposing new apartment buildings in that city for at least three years.

Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch, Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul speak at a Bisnow Central Perimeter event last week.

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said at Bisnow's Central Perimeter event June 16 that the city needs to encourage for-sale housing, especially for entry-level buyers, because more than 60% of the city's housing stock is rental. Paul won a third term as mayor last November.

“For some reason or another, the only thing people want to build in Sandy Springs is apartments,” Paul said. “What's missing is housing for young families. So don't come to Sandy Springs with your apartment plans right now. We are not going to approve any more. We got all we need. Apartments are persona non grata in Sandy Springs until we get a better balance.”

Sandy Springs' stance on multifamily, which Paul said isn't an official moratorium, is in line with the action taken by the neighboring city of Roswell, which in May amended its Uniform Development Code to prohibit new, standalone apartment projects. Last week, the Roswell City Council extended by 60 days a March moratorium on new apartments unless they are part of a mixed-use project that has at least 75% nonresidential space.

Paul was joined on stage by Dunwoody Mayor Lynn Deutsch, Brookhaven Mayor John Ernst and Ann Hanlon, the executive director of the Perimeter Community Improvement District. Central Perimeter comprises portions of Fulton and DeKalb counties as well as the cities of Sandy Springs, Dunwoody and Brookhaven.

Neither of the other mayors spoke out directly against apartments. Last year, the Dunwoody Development Authority granted $19M in tax abatements to GID Development Group for its High Street project, which will include nearly 600 apartment units.

But Deutsch said housing in Dunwoody is reaching prices beyond the grasp of average households, where the median house in May sold for $655K, a 23.6% increase over 2021, according to Redfin. Affordability is something all Metro Atlanta municipalities have been wrestling with, especially many of the close-in suburbs that used to be magnets for first-time and entry-level homebuyers.

Housing prices have sent those buyers sprawling to the fringes of Metro Atlanta to find attainable homes, Bisnow previously reported. And a chronic shortage of new entry-level housing, coupled with high demand, is crippling many households' ability to buy homes in Atlanta and across the nation, forcing many into the rental market instead, experts say.

“For us, we need entry-level ownership housing,” Deutsch said. The city is currently working with consulting firm Pond & Co. on Edge City 2.0, which will examine the path of future development in Dunwoody, including exploring the possibility of rowhomes, townhouses, stacked flats and senior living facilities, according to the Dunwoody Crier.

Arnall Golden Gregory partner Scott Fisher led a panel that included Trammell Crow principal Brandon Houston, Atlanta Property Group co-founder Jonathan Rodbell, Bridge Investment Group Managing Director Tina Renee McCall and Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb.

Part of the housing mix could be build-to-rent communities — single-family housing neighborhoods built specifically for renters — a concept that has risen in popularity in recent years as home prices have shot up. But both Deutsch and Paul said BTR projects need to be approved by city councils and not dictated by state legislators, echoing outcry from local government officials earlier this year when Georgia legislators in both the state House and Senate proposed bills that would prohibit municipalities and counties from blocking build-to-rent communities.

“The product build-to-rent is not the problem. The problem is the state legislature wants to tell local governments how to manage their housing policy, which is not constitutional, I would say,” Deutsch said.

But Deutsch and Paul shared concerns about BTR development: Deutsch said she was concerned that the properties would never be occupied by homeowners, pushing up the prices of existing for-sale homes.

“When that tract of land becomes single-family homes for rental, they will never be on the purchasing market,” she said. "These are not the same as you as an investor buying a few homes and when you're ready to sell them, they can go back to ownership. These will stay rental forever."

Paul also said the need for more for-sale housing allows people to build family wealth, something earlier generations have been able to do in Central Perimeter.

“Real estate has been the source for family wealth in this country since the pilgrims arrived,” he said. “We cut that off from a whole generation of young Americans today."

Bridge Investment Group’s Tina Renee McCall and Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb.

Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb said allowing owners of existing commercial complexes to add multifamily would help alleviate the housing crisis, but said NIMBYism was blocking that from happening.

“I think the concept of densifying where it makes sense … is an important thing that these communities should be embracing,” Grubb said.

Bridge Investment Group Managing Director Tina Renee McCall said combining housing with commercial properties can also help encourage people to report back to the office.

“Having these housing initiatives and having these housing complexes close to where people are working is going to be incredibly impactful in bringing people back into the office building,” she said.