The good news: Metro Atlanta’s cost-of-living is slightly below the national average. Among the largest metro areas, we’re 9th most affordable in terms of rent, and 6th most affordable when it comes to home prices.

The challenge: Just like everywhere else in the country, affordable housing is a challenge here. In the Atlanta region, rising property values threaten to squeeze low-to-middle income residents. As a result, most metro Atlanta neighborhoods are not affordable for families making less than $50,000 a year. (Housing is generally considered affordable if a family spends less than 30% of income on housing costs.)

An annual report released recently by the National Low Income Housing Coalition bring new details to light on the housing affordability crisis. The report reveals that someone earning minimum wage can’t afford a two-bedroom apartment in any of the 50 states.

In metro Atlanta, this situation is complicated by the “spatial mismatch” between jobs and housing—that is to say, relatively few people live in the places in the region where most of the jobs are.

Here’s how Georgia stacks up.

According to the 2018 Out of Reach Report, Georgia has the nation’s 27th-highest “housing wage” – a term that reflects the hourly wage needed to afford a two-bedroom rental. In Georgia, someone must make $17.53 an hour to afford a two-bedroom rental, and someone making the current minimum wage of $7.25 must work 97 hours a week to afford that rental.

A recent Washington Post story on the report adds this insight:

According to the report, a one-bedroom is affordable for minimum-wage workers in only 22 counties in five states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Those states all set their minimum wages higher than the federal minimum of $7.25.

Nationally, one would have to earn $17.90 an hour to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment or $22.10 an hour for a two-bedroom rental. That’s based on the common budgeting standard of spending a maximum of 30 percent of income on housing.

The report estimates that renters nationally make an average of $16.88 an hour. That means even those making above minimum wage struggle to afford rent.


What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.