By the numbers: Georgia’s jobs boom, housing shortage

By David Pendered

Jan. 29 – Census data on Georgia’s housing units and population, and Gov. Brian Kemp’s announcements on the number of new jobs, provide perspective on Kemp’s proposed $35.7 million in state funding for affordable housing.

A significant housing shortage appears to be on the horizon in some areas of the state. Census figures show the supply of new housing units provided since 1970 may not accommodate the expected surge in demand for homes for workers in the manufacturing plants Kemp has announced.

The supply of new homes has dwindled since 2000. (Credit: Census, David Pendered)

Kemp elaborated on his workforce housing plan in his Jan. 25 State of the State speech to the Georgia Legislature. Kemp has earmarked $35.7 million to induce development of housing that will be affordable to those working in new or expanded facilities.

(Details of Kemp’s plan to use the state’s tobacco fund are available here.)

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s 2023 legislative agenda includes support for a statewide approach to the development of affordable workforce housing.

Kemp’s proposal comes as Georgia’s statewide pace for building new residences has declined from historic highs dating to 1960, according to the Census.

The gap between housing supply and demand from a growing population has increased since 2000, by historic standards, Census figures show. The state’s low unemployment rates, as recorded over time, suggest the manufacturing plants will need to recruit folks from other states to fill the new jobs – and the newcomers will increase the demand for housing.

This birds’ eye view doesn’t burrow into the geographic location of the new dwellings that have been built and other metrics, such as the rate of household formation among Georgians. A glance at the county-by-county data suggests a large proportion of the new homes have been provided in and around the state’s major cities, as opposed to areas slated to attract workers for jobs in the announced manufacturing plants – the regions targeted by the governor’s proposal.

Here’s a snapshot of supply and expected demand in three regions of Georgia. (A snapshot of the downturn in metro Atlanta home contruction is available here.):

The year 2004 was the peak of residential permitting in the 29-county metro Atlanta area. (Credit:, David Pendered)
  • Bryan County, near Savannah, is to have more than 8,100 new jobs as Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America builds out a planned $5.54 billion facility. The Census shows Bryan added about 9,000 homes from 1970 to 2010;
  • Morgan and Walton counties, near Madison, are to have more than 7,500 new jobs as Rivian builds out a planned $5 billion facility. The Census shows from 1970 to 2010 Morgan County added about 3,100 homes and Walton County added about 25,000;
  • Bartow County, where Cartersville is the county seat, is to have more than 3,500 new jobs as Hyundai Motor Group and SK On build out a planned EV battery facility representing an investment of $4 billion to $5 billion. The Census shows Bartow added about 18,000 homes from 1970 to 2010.

A by-the-numbers look at the state’s growth rates of homes, population, anticipated job growth and unemployment shows the following:

  • Over the past decade, the growth rate of housing units statewide has declined to an historic low: 9.4% in the decade ending with the 2020 Census. The rate was 24.6% in the decade ending 2010. The rates have ranged from a low of 21% (decade ending 1960) to a high of 37.9% (decade ending 1980);
  • The rate of population growth fell during the same period, but by a smaller proportion: 10.4% in the decade ending 2020. The rate was 18.3% in the decade ending 2010, down from 14.5% (1960) to 26.4% (2000);
  • More than 51,132 new jobs in Georgia were announced by Kemp in the 12-month period ending June 30, 2022; the total increase is forecast within seven years;
  • More than 10,921 new jobs in Georgia were announced by Kemp from July 1, 2022 through the end of the year.
  • Georgia’s unemployment rate has hovered near 3% the past year, according to a report by the Georgia Department of Labor. Using the definition of underutilization, which the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks as the broadest measure, Georgia’s U-6 rate in 2021 of 7.9% is beneath the U.S. rate of 9.4%. U-6 is defined as “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”
  • (See Census reports Georgia 2010 and QuickFacts Georgia, and Kemp’s statement on jobs announced in Fiscal Year 2022. Current fiscal year data is a tabulation of individual job announcements in the governor’s press releases. Unemployment data is available from this report by the BLS.)

Kemp’s State of the State speech to the Legislature contained these remarks, according to the prepared text provided by the governor’s office:

  • “Because of our efforts, there is greater opportunity in every zip code in Georgia, but many of those communities struggle to provide adequate workforce housing. But transformational projects, good-paying jobs, and new investment are worth little if there arenʼt options for hardworking Georgians to live where they work.
  • “Weʼre talking about the people who are teaching your children, keeping your community safe, who provide life-saving support in times of trouble, and those who make the goods and provide the services that make a community such a great place to call home.
  • “That is why I am creating the Rural Workforce Housing Fund, enabling the state to partner directly with local governments to develop sites across the state for workforce housing.
  • “I am also eager to see solutions that will come from others in the next few months.
  • And as hardworking Georgians find opportunity and the quality housing that comes with it, they also deserve to live, work, and worship in safety.”
Greenspace in Morgan County is to be developed into a Rivian assembly plant and, possibly, workforce housing. (Credit: David Pendered)