Column: Public opinion survey sheds light on housing, transportation and other issues

Crime is perceived to be the biggest problem facing metro Atlanta residents, followed by the economy, transportation and human services, according to the majority of respondents in a public opinion survey.

Atlanta Regional Commission has released this year’s results from Metro Atlanta Speaks, an annual survey conducted on more than 4,800 adults in 11 counties by Kennesaw State University’s A.L. Burruss Institute of Public Service and Research. The feedback can help local leaders shape policies and initiatives focused on housing, transportation, workforce development and other issues.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why most residents ranked crime as their top concern, said Mike Carnathan, manager of ARC’s Research and Analytics Division. Following a surge during the pandemic, violent crime is on the decline in Atlanta and other cities. More than 70% of respondents reported feeling safe walking at night in their neighborhoods.

Most respondents have cited crime as the biggest problem in the past three surveys. One theory for the concern: the steady stream of incidents reported by news outlets and widely circulated on social media. The results could indicate a shift in priorities, in which some residents may feel less preoccupied with other issues, Carnathan said.

For example, transportation was the top choice in pre-pandemic years. The staying power of hybrid and remote work could have changed its order on the list of priorities for employees who spend fewer hours stuck in congested commutes. Stubborn inflation and elevated borrowing costs likely contributed to concerns about the economy, which respondents have ranked as one of the top-three problems for years.

7 6 Marta trains BS2

Many residents believe improving public transit is important for metro Atlanta’s future, but they’re not necessarily willing to pay for it through taxes, according to a recent survey.

Byron E. Small

Despite transit support, some residents don’t want to pay for it

An improved public transit system is important for metro Atlanta’s future, according to 91% of residents who answered the survey.

But respondents are divided on what would be the best long-term solution to traffic problems, with 36% choosing transit expansion and 30% leaning toward improving roads and highways. A slight majority would not be willing to pay more in taxes to expand the region’s network of buses and trains: 51% disagreed with the idea, while 46% agreed with it.

A few years after suburban voters rejected a regional transit referendum, Atlanta voters approved a half-penny sales tax to fund MARTA’s expansion. Gwinnett and Cobb residents have repeatedly rejected attempts to expand rail. Now, elected officials in both counties are considering 2024 referendums that would fund bus rapid transit and other services through a sales tax.

houses for sale homes

Home prices and apartment rents in the metro area have swelled to new heights in recent years.

Bryon E. Small

Residents sense shortfall of affordable housing

The latest results also indicate that public opinion on housing is largely aligned with reality: Many communities lack affordable options. More than 63% of surveyed residents agreed they could not afford to move to another home or apartment in their neighborhoods, while 56% agreed they could not afford to move to another residence anywhere in the metro area.

Nearly three-fourths of respondents believe low-wage workers employed by local businesses may have a problem finding affordable housing in their communities. Providing more options could help attract and retain skilled workers in the region, according to 32% of respondents.

Home prices and apartment rents in the metro area have swelled to new heights in recent years. The median home sold for $410,000 in September 2023, compared to $270,000 in 2019, according to First Multiple Listing Service. The average apartment now rents around $1,600 per month, 20% higher than four years ago, according to CoStar Group.

“Housing affordability is at crisis levels now, so we wanted to see what people’s perceptions are about it,” Carnathan said. “It’s unequivocal: Respondents realize affordability is a major issue.”

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