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'Everyone's moving out': Steep rents, home prices making housing unaffordable for some area residents
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Pines of Lanier apartments resident Daniel Halteman stands outside his loft apartment in Gainesville Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, where his rent is increasing from $720 to $1200 per month. - photo by Scott Rogers

For the past four years, 28-year-old Daniel Halteman has rented an apartment at Pines of Lanier in Gainesville. 

It’s not exactly a picture of luxury, he said, but his 500-square-foot loft was affordable, and as a bachelor, he didn’t need much more. 

“I’m a single guy, so it didn't really bother me that it's not the nicest area,” he said. 

But now he’s moving out — not because he wants to necessarily, but because the landlord is jacking up monthly rents following what he and others described as only meager renovations, like painting the buildings white, repaving the parking lot, upgrading the cabinetry and installing black appliances. 

Halteman, who works as a video producer at Free Chapel, expected his rent to go up, perhaps by a couple hundred dollars, but he was stunned when he received his three-month renewal notice. 

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Some residents at The Pines of Lanier apartments in Gainesville are complaining of a rent increases of hundreds of dollars with apartment owners promising minor renovations. - photo by Scott Rogers

He pays $720 a month for a 500-square-foot loft, but the new rate for a 7-12 month lease would be $1,200. If he signs after Oct. 1, his rent would be $1,350. 

“Even if I had the money, which I don’t, the apartment is not worth that much,” he said. 

Abigail Rod, who has rented a one-bedroom apartment since January, is also looking to move someplace else after her rent was set to increase from about $800 to $1,300. 

“It’s not worth the amount that they’re raising,” she said. “Over here, you got to be calling the police every time you hear some type of ruckus. It’s like being in the hood sometimes.” 

Halteman expects that renters will not be willing to pay the new rates to stay at a complex like Pines of Lanier.

“Everyone’s moving out, and no one’s moving in,” he said. “We're just getting kicked out, honestly. It feels like they're trying to flush out everybody and then get newer, richer people in.” 

The property owner, Boardwalk Wealth, declined to comment. And the property manager, Alexander Properties Group, did not respond to repeated requests. 

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Daniel Halteman's loft apartment at Pines of Lanier in Gainesville Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, where his rent is increasing from $720 to $1200 per month. - photo by Scott Rogers


Pines of Lanier may be an acute example of rising rents in Gainesville, but the lack of affordable housing is nothing new in the city, the county, the state and the country. 

A number of factors contribute to the affordable housing shortage, including population growth, construction costs and low wages. 

One factor is the effect population growth has on supply and demand: As the population grows, demand increases, supply becomes limited and prices go up. 

“We have not seen housing keep up with the amount of population growth in the state of Georgia, and specifically Atlanta and North Atlanta and North Georgia,” said Tommy Howard, president of brokerage services for the Norton Agency, a Gainesville-based real estate firm. 

According to 2020 census data, Hall County’s population increased from 179,684 in 2010 to 203,136 in 2020, a 13% increase.

Additionally, developers say rising construction and regulatory costs make it difficult to build affordable housing that still returns a profit. 

“It’s almost impossible,” said Jonathan Collins of Capstone Property Group. 

“New stuff is just so much more expensive to develop,” he said. “It just makes it very difficult to deliver something that would be considered affordable, whatever your definition is of that term.”

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Pines of Lanier apartments resident Candace Dunegan sits outside Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, in Gainesville. Some residents are complaining of a rent increases of hundreds of dollars each month with apartment owners promising minor renovations. - photo by Scott Rogers

“You can't just say, ‘Well, there's a bunch of people that would buy $150,000 houses. Build $150,000 houses,’” Howard said. “I can't do it, because the price of labor, the price of goods, the price of materials, the price of land, the price of the sewer — there's so many things involved in building a house today, it's like, I can't build a house less than $300,000 because that's just what it costs to build.”

Beth Brown, director of the Gainesville Housing Authority, echoed those concerns. 

“It’s fairly simple math,” she said. “It’s not that people are trying to gouge anyone necessarily. It’s just, it costs a lot to build, to operate, manage, maintain.” 

Housing is considered affordable if a person pays no more than 30% of their gross income toward housing, according to the city’s 2022 Comprehensive Plan

With median household income of $51,000, the benchmark for affordability is $1,275 per month. About one-fifth of homeowners in Gainesville and Hall County are considered cost-burdened, and the situation is worse for renters. 

“Housing affordability is considerably worse for renters than homeowners in Gainesville,” the city says. And because renters earn less than homeowners on average, “the vast majority of units should be targeted for rents below $1,000, and more likely lower than $800.” 

Nearly 40% of renters are cost-burdened, and nearly one-fifth are severely cost-burdened, paying more than half of the income in rent. 

The city has worked to build more affordable housing, namely in the form of tax-credit projects, such as Walton Summit and Walton Harbor.  

Brown puts much of the blame on wage stagnation. Wages simply haven’t kept up with the cost of housing, she said. 

The Norton Agency has compiled data showing that in the past 10 years in Hall County, the median sale price for single-family homes has far outpaced median household income. 

In 2012, the median home price was a little more than double the median income. In 2022, the median home price is more than six-fold higher. 

“If people are not making a living wage, the affordable housing crisis is going to continue,” Brown said.

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Daniel Halteman's loft apartment at Pines of Lanier in Gainesville Monday, Aug. 22, 2022, where his rent is increasing from $720 to $1200 per month. - photo by Scott Rogers