Density Bonuses Designed to Encourage the “Missing Middle” Housing in Atlanta Neighborhoods

Atlanta is seeking to incentivize affordable housing construction by allowing density bonuses in MR-MU zoned areas and proactively rezoning specific 1-2 unit single-family properties near MARTA stations.
Source: Official
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The density bonus ordinance language is part of new legislation allowing more affordable housing options throughout Atlanta. Ordinance 21-0-0456 was reviewed by the 25 Neighborhood Planning Units in October. A public hearing on the ordinance amendments will be held during the Zoning Review Board on November 4, 2021. Discussions on the proactive rezoning legislation are still ongoing at the NPU level.

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According to Atlanta City Documents, Ordinance 21-0-0456, Section 1 will include policies intended to amend the type and number of housing units allowed in MR-MU zones. Additionally, Ordinance 21-0-0454 will rezone additional single-family parcels in R4, R4A, and R5 districts near MARTA stations to MR-MU, creating more opportunities to capitalize on density bonuses.

Currently, MR-MU zoned parcels are allowed to have up to twelve housing units per property with a minimum lot size of 2,000 square feet.

The proposed legislation would reduce the number of permitted units to a maximum of four unless affordable housing units are part of the development plan. Depending on the number of dedicated affordable units proposed, the development could receive a density bonus of an additional eight units. Specifically, another 5 to 8 units could be constructed if at least one unit is rented at 60% AMI or one for-sale unit sold at 80% AMI. Further, if two rental units are rented at 60% AMI or two units are owner-occupied and sold at 80% AMI, the development would receive a density bonus of an additional eight units.

According to the proposed legislation, if a new residential development in an MR-MU zoned property proposed a small apartment consisting of 12 units, two of the units must be offered as affordable rental or for-sale units.

Other Proposed Regulations Include:

  • Increasing the minimum lot size to 5,000 square feet
  • Changing the minimum street frontage to 40 feet
  • Adding front setback requirement of 25 feet
  • Adding a maximum lot overage of 75%
  • Requiring front porches on all new dwellings
  • If a density bonus is granted, the units must remain affordable for a minimum of 20 years

According to information provided by the City, the proposed legislation intends to increase housing variety by increasing the overall housing supply, especially near transit, and incentivizing affordable housing through density bonuses. In addition, the goal is to integrate affordable housing units without jeopardizing the neighborhood feel of residential neighborhoods.

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Source: Official
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Dr. Anita Archambeau

Anita Archambeau, DPA AICP, is a freelance writer, adjunct professor, and consulting urban planner. She has over 25 years of community and economic development experience in local government. When she’s not working, you can find her exploring local craft breweries, walking her two beagles, or traveling to visit her adult children living in New York City and Minneapolis.

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1 Comment

  1. Wealthier neighborhoods are exempt placing the burden on middle and lower income neighborhoods. Offering Affordable Housing options will be optional just like it is optional for developers now. Most developer choose not to offer Affordable Housing options since there is not much money in it. The proposed MR-MU projects I have seen so far are planned to be priced at or above market value. There isn’t anything ‘missing middle’ or ‘Affordable’ about MR-MU. The city is trying to put a good spin on this, but it’s very poorly written and will not fulfill any promises the city is making.

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