Amazon in Atlanta? Bad for renters and first-time homebuyers

The state of Georgia has joined in something of a nationwide frenzy over Amazon.

The Seattle-based internet giant is looking to build a second headquarters and 238 applicants — from major metro areas like Atlanta, Boston and New York to smaller cities like Austin, Denver and Raleigh — have lined up, offering to throw a lot of taxpayer money at the company.

Whether you consider that corporate welfare or pump-priming, economists agree on this: The arrival of a huge, talented, ambitious, well-compensated workforce would pour money into and through a local economy.

But one thing not discussed much is the impact those 50,000 Amazon workers (along with dependents and an influx of employees in related industries) would have on the region’s infrastructure, especially the housing.

For homeowners, the upshot is generally good – at least on the surface.

Home prices in metro Atlanta would rise even faster than they’ve been rising, according to a Re/Max analysis of Amazon’s possible impact on the region, put together for the Journal-Constitution. “We anticipate a growing and robust demand for housing that will push prices higher across the entire greater Atlanta area,” the special report said.

That’s good if you anticipate selling your home, and even better if you aren’t trying to buy another home in the same area.

But, for first-time homebuyers in particular, an Amazon influx could intensify problems with affordability. Prices at the lower end of the market are already rising faster than wage increases.

While Amazon is by no means the sole cause of Seattle’s boom – Microsoft and Starbucks are also based there – it is seen as a key driver of growth and in the rise in property values and rents.

Seattle home prices have climbed 42 percent since 2013, according to Re/Max.

Atlanta and Seattle are very different. For example, the median home price in Atlanta is $220,000 compared to about $424,000 in Seattle, But the overall effect will be similar, according to the Re/Max analysis.

Atlanta home prices have been rising almost as fast as Seattle’s: Since 2013, the median home price is up 37 percent.

The last several years, Atlanta prices have been shoved skyward by a shortage of homes for sale. A surge of new demand will only make the imbalance worse, the analysis said.

So if Amazon comes to Atlanta, “Initially, the price increases will be modest,” the analysis said. “However, as Amazon continues to grow its presence in Atlanta, it’s possible we could see a similar pattern as Seattle.”

Rents would also rise.

A lot depends on where such an Amazon campus would be and how much housing is nearby.

In the absence of specifics, there are estimates from Apartment List, an online rental research and listing company.

Apartment List estimates that 50,000 Amazon workers would mean the addition of 66,250 “supplementary” workers. And all that affects housing.

Apartment List analyzed impacts on rent in 15 contending cities, said Sydney Bennet, research associate of Apartment List.

In some places, the change is less than 1 percent. In others, Amazon’s arrival could shove rents 7 percent higher per year, she said. “Although a 1 or 2 percent rent increase per year may not sound like a lot, the additional rent growth comes at a time when rents are already rising rapidly nationwide and half of renters are cost-burdened, spending 30 percent or more of their income on rent.”

The good news for Atlanta is that the impact here would be nowhere near as painful as in smaller metro areas, like Raleigh.

The company predicts Atlanta rents will increase 2.5 percent a year without Amazon and the addition of Amazon would add 0.7 percent a year to that increase, she said.


AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to 

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Business

Kempner: Amazon, thanks for sort of picking Atlanta, but …
Kempner: Amazon, thanks for sort of picking Atlanta, but …

Amazon, it’s not that we’re ungrateful for Atlanta being one of your Top 20 choices for your second headquarters and 50,000 delicious jobs. We’ll hold off celebrating or feeling like we’ve gotten some kind of affirmation until we figure out if you just like us a good bit or really love us. Yes, we do think we are all that...
New Chick-fil-A opens in Vine City, part of revitalization efforts
New Chick-fil-A opens in Vine City, part of revitalization efforts

Chick-fil-A has opened a new restaurant in Vine City, as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the Westside area of Atlanta. The new restaurant located on MLK Drive, has provided 90 jobs, seventy percent of which went to Westside residents and also includes a conference room for people to hold community meetings. “This restaurant serves as...
Atlanta survives the first cut in Amazon’s HQ2 sweepstakes
Atlanta survives the first cut in Amazon’s HQ2 sweepstakes

Amazon narrowed its list of potential communities for its massive second headquarters on Thursday to a final grouping that includes Atlanta and 19 others in the U.S. and Canada, setting off a battle royale for a project promising prestige and 50,000 high-paying jobs. Georgia and metro Atlanta leaders hailed the news, while noting much work remains...
Georgia ends 2017 with modest job growth, slowest of past five years
Georgia ends 2017 with modest job growth, slowest of past five years

Georgia’s economy added 5,600 jobs last month, providing an upbeat but unspectacular ending to year of modest growth across most employment sectors. In 2017, the state finished the year with 83,200 more jobs than the year before, according to a report Thursday from Georgia’s Labor Department . “As we look back at the year, it was...
Best gifts for the home chef
Best gifts for the home chef

There are all sorts of new gizmos for people whose relationship with food comes in all forms. Here are four of our favorite new devices for the cook and the kitchen. ——— Amazon Dash Wand Product Review: CNET rating: 4.0 stars out of 5 (Excellent)...
More Stories