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Stepping into the right direction

Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz
Various housing industry leaders from the region stand for  the National Anthem. The "Clayton County Regional Housing Summit" included discussions about the troubling housing market in metro Atlanta.

Photo by M.J. Subiria Arauz Various housing industry leaders from the region stand for the National Anthem. The "Clayton County Regional Housing Summit" included discussions about the troubling housing market in metro Atlanta.

By M.J. Subiria Arauz

marauz@news-daily.com

The Atlanta region flocked to Clayton County to hear federal, state and local leaders in the housing industry.

The "Clayton County Regional Housing Summit: 'Step by Step Remedies for Recovery'" addressed the housing crisis on a national and local level on Thursday. Many of the speakers and attendees had a common point of view--improvement in the housing market in the county and the region depends on the participation of various entities and communities.

"We have come together for this two-day summit to address an issue that is crippling so many communities across the Atlanta region," said Clayton County Commission Chairman Eldrin Bell. "The housing market in America has devastated families and wreaked havoc on local economies."

Bell said because of these negative effects, he felt obliged to round up government officials, professionals from the housing industry and citizens to address the problem in unison.

Clayton County will serve as a laboratory of best practices, said the chairman.

The summit's morning session began at 9 a.m., at the Morrow Center, in a room that spilled over with attendees, which included members of the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce, Rev. Mike Glanton, Clayton County Sheriff Kem Kimbrough and David Barton, chairman of the Metro South Association of Realtors Education Foundation, Inc.

Barton said he spoke at the "Workforce Housing" session and discussed various topics, including an overview of economic development and redevelopment projects, as well as, Clayton County's future in the housing market.

"The abandonment of properties has plighted the county, if not blighted the county, and it is something that has to be addressed with more attention," said Barton.

He added that over the past two years, the value of homes in the county has dropped from five, to 10 percent. He also said the state of education in the county has played a role in deterring people from buying homes. He said people want to stay in a county that has a stable education system.

Rev. Mike Glanton, a former state representative, said he moderated the "Faith-Based Initiatives," breakout session, which addressed how faith-based groups play an important role in meeting housing needs for their communities. He said he attended the event to gain information and insight on the housing crisis experienced by Clayton County and the region.

"As men and women of the clergy, we are aware of what folks are going through...as pastors we have to look beyond our four walls," he said.

Speakers during the morning session included Catherine Ross, director of the Georgia Tech Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development, and Roger Tutterow, professor of economics at Mercer University.

Ross' speech was titled, "State of the Regional Housing Market."

She said that since 2009, median home values have been tumbling in the state and regional housing markets. The new market has forced homeowners and potential buyers to think differently.

People are "having to think about financing, infrastructure, housing," said Ross. "It is all these things that become important within the context of incentive opportunity."

She said there was improvement in the housing market value, in 2010, because of the $8,000 tax incentive. When the opportunity was no longer available, the activity in the housing market experienced another dip, she explained.

People's housing needs are changing, and both the county and the region should address ways to attract new buyers, said Ross.

"If we look at the Atlanta region, it unfortunately has not been a lot different than the rest of the country," she said. "Home prices fell in more than 75 percent of the U.S. cities in the first quarter of this year."

Roger Tutterow said the Great Recession came unexpectedly in 2008, but it ended in the summer of 2009.

"The recession ended, but it doesn't mean that we were right back where we were prior to the economic downturn," he said. "It doesn't mean that the happy days are here again. It means simply things stopped getting worse."

He said the U.S. economy has been expanding since the third quarter of 2009, and in the first quarter of this year the gross domestic product (GDP) increased by 1.8 percent. "The most obvious problem is where it [increase] didn't come from, and that is the government sector."

The housing summit will continue today at noon at the Morrow Center, 1180 Southlake Circle, Morrow. For more information contact Peryenthia Hudson, at (770) 875-6693.