The city’s Economic Advisory Committee learned early on that owners of older apartment complexes are sitting pretty on increased occupancy, and have no incentive to sell or redevelop their properties.
“What we’re hearing is cash flow is so good from Class C [older apartments] they are not going to do it,” said City Manager John McDonough, during this week’s City Council retreat.
Class C apartment complexes were built 25-40 years ago.
McDonough and Community Development Director Angela Parker suggested two alternatives: Buy some of the apartment complexes and offer incentives to developers who would consider building in Sandy Springs.
“This may be the only way to bring about the desired result that the Council and the community wants to see,” McDonough said.
Apartments represent 43 percent of Sandy Springs housing stock according to city data. There are just over 20,000 apartment units in about 71 apartment complexes in Sandy Springs, according to a presentation by Parker. Rental communities sit on more than 1,400 acres.
Sandy Springs Police Chief Terry Sult explained that the department’s initiative on apartments has looked at top crime densities among older rental communities. Fifty-six percent of the most violent crime reports are from Class C apartment communities, he said. A break down of crimes per 100 apartment units in a year included, Highland Circle apartments on Northwood Drive with 27.61 crimes; 550 Abernathy at 24.56 crimes; and The Reserve at Ridgewood on Roswell Road at 21.64 crimes.
McDonough suggested Mayor Eva Galambos and Council members consider purchasing some of the older communities to redevelop for park space. Other properties can be offered to developers with incentives on zoning, density, rent yields and other factors for higher end housing, he said.
It could mean a more desirable ratio of homeowners to renters, which is now almost even. Back in 1970, homeownership far outweighed renters, said Council member Karen McEnerny.
In factoring in apartment redevelopment with downtown revitalization, some worried that too many new apartments could be a repeat journey of the last 40 years. In the 1970s and early ‘80s apartment communities drew up and coming young folks. Today, apartment communities represent 37 percent of emergency calls for service, Sandy Springs police say.
Still, market experts including representatives from Goody Clancy, the master planning firm selected to develop a concept for a new downtown area, say there is new normal. Many folks are choosing apartments instead of mortgages.
“The stuff we would build today would be [upscale]. Those markets have a pretty good chance of staying pretty strong," said David Dixon, Principal in Charge of Planning and Urban Design at Goody Clancy.
Council members are also interested in attractive residential developments for senior citizens.
“There’s a large interest in my community because they want to move out of the big house. They love Sandy Springs but there are no alternatives,” McEnerny said.
Parker suggested a senior development with different types of structures such as, “Stacked flats, townhomes and singe family detached patio homes in one development,” she said.