A recent housing study of Jackson County says that there's not enough affordable housing for lower-income residents and that local leaders should use zoning tools to help address that issue.
That core finding isn't totally new to county leaders, who have been told for years by area real estate folks that the county lacked housing for lower-income citizens.
However, that issue has come under increasing focus recently with the development of the massive SK Battery plant in Commerce that will employ 2,600 people. That project, and the booming growth in local distribution centers and warehouses, has county leaders concerned about housing for that workforce.
The housing study, sponsored by the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce and done by the Georgia Conservancy and the Microlife Institute, looked at some of the issues surrounding housing in the county.
In addition to a lack of lower-priced housing, the study also found that the county had very little rental housing available at any price.
The report also said that many of the planned unit developments (PUD/PCD) projects in the county have not lived up to the idea of developing mixed-project communities.
"(They are) not producing the creative developments that they're meant to facilitate," the report said.
Those projects haven't created a varied housing stock nor have they incorporated commercial and mixed use projects in those developments, said the report.
The report also found a mismatch between comprehensive plans in the county and actual zoning codes, meaning that while the comp plans may call for a certain kind of developments, the zoning rules don't allow those.
The study calls for more compact developments in the county with smaller houses and smaller lot sizes, the creation of "pocket neighborhoods" of smaller homes in dense pods, and easier accessory dwelling units (secondary housing with existing housing, such as garage apartments. The report also calls for dense housing to be primarily focused in existing towns where commercial and other services are available.
The report also suggests that residential units be allowed in existing commercial buildings in towns where it's not currently available.
Some of that has been discussed at various planning board meetings in the county, but citizens have generally pushed-back against any plans to have smaller lot sizes or smaller square foot housing minimums in the county. Multi-family housing is also unpopular with many local citizens.
One of the partners in the study, Microlife Institute, advocates for smaller housing projects, cottage housing and tiny houses in the state. The other partner, the Georgia Conservancy, advocates for sustainable living principals in housing developments.
The Jackson County government currently currently has a moratorium on residential housing in unincorporated areas of the county as it rewrites some of its codes and develops an impact fee system.