We are fortunate to live in a state that has experienced strong economic growth for the past several years and continues to do so. It seems like every time you read a headline, a new company is either expanding operations or moving to Georgia. Our state has long held the moniker of the No. 1 state in which to do business. As we emerge from the pandemic, Georgia’s business-friendly climate seems to have helped our state weather the storm better than many others. In turn, the Georgia REALTORS® (GAR) is focusing policy discussions on what this means for real estate in the years to come.
Over the past few years, the GAR has been concerned with workforce housing. As more jobs are created around the state, we need to be certain there is a sufficient supply of housing for these workers. When hundreds of jobs are being created with each new manufacturing facility or logistics center, there needs to be a place for these workers to live. In workforce housing, two elements need to be in place for employees — proximity to the workplace and affordability. Those two elements have been at the heart of both the economic policy and legislative policy pathways being traveled by the Georgia REALTORS®.
When the proximity is not right, transportation infrastructure pays the price. The economic impact of growth is diminished if the growth adds to the traffic strains on our roadways. As the influx of employers is spreading around the state, one of the areas our economic development efforts turn to is rural prosperity initiatives. These include looking at removing barriers to re-developing older buildings in small towns for residential use and bringing greater access to broadband in all of Georgia. From the legislative policy standpoint, we have recently worked to allow property owners to continue to be able to supply single family rentals and prevent local governments from pushing away multifamily rental properties by charging exorbitant tap fees.
Affordability goes hand-in-hand with proximity; if the worker cannot afford the housing in reasonable proximity to the workplace, that housing doesn’t really exist for that worker. Thus, taking it right back to proximity. On this front, we most recently fought for a consumer fuel choice bill that allows a homeowner to continue to use the utilities available to them that best fit their household needs without restriction from local governments. Additionally, we have also fought to keep more building materials available in an effort to keep the cost of construction of workforce housing lower, leading to greater affordability.
Again, from an economic point of view, Georgia’s pro-business policies seemed to have helped us weather the pandemic better than many states. However, the pandemic did exacerbate an already existing problem. Workforce housing was already a concern as we entered the pandemic, and the construction materials shortages and subsequent price increases have not made attacking the problem any easier. The Speaker of the House has just appointed the House Working Group on Rising Costs of Construction Materials (as a side note, this group has three of the eleven General Assembly members that are active Georgia REALTORS®). We look forward to working with this group to address this immediate concern of construction materials costs as we continue to work toward solutions to address the overall workforce housing needs of the state.
Jeff Ledford is the Chief Advocacy Officer for the Georgia REALTORS®.