How Much Rent are You Paying, Atlanta?

by David Benoit

Do ya like data? Do ya? ¡Tengo más para ti, muñeca!

All this equality talk going around got me thinking about the big picture. The first thing that would come out of my mouth regarding the big picture would be a regurgitation of some fancy article that I read one afternoon at work. I’d quote it and pawn it off as my own idea. This time, before I make any knee-jerk reactions, I decided to take a rational comprehensive stance on the matter of Atlanta equality and the rights of our hard earned dollars in our quest to maximize its spending power.  First and only step: know your facts. There is nothing better than to actually know what the hell you’re talking about. So, when that barroom conversation between you and your bestie takes a foul turn into a screaming match tempered with a drunken rage in the middle of The EARL on a Friday night and you start screaming “fascist!” you should know the facts (not that I’m saying that has actually happened…).

What are these facts I speak of? Median gross rent to population density and its dispersion within the City of Atlanta categorized within a respective zip code, of course. But for this little exercise, I chose the top three and the bottom three zip coded in the City of Atlanta in terms to rental affordability.

So it seems to me that the respected Buckhead/Brookhaven neighborhood maintains the greatest population within the 30319 zip code, but misses the mark on bragging rights for paying the greatest amount of rent. This is odd, considering that popular opinion of supply and demand in economics dictates here that a greater population assumes lower housing inventory, hence greater rents. The only conclusion I can assume is that zip code 30319 isn’t near anything worth living near and, frankly put, isn’t cool.

However, the assumption of Buckhead having lower rents because it’s an uncool spot may be premature because the neighboring zip code of 30326 garnishes the greatest rent payment with the least population, with 30327 right behind it, also in Buckhead. This brings us back to popular opinion that the low population is a direct result of low housing stock, hence higher rental prices.

To challenge this assumption is the downtown zip code of 30303 where no one lives, except the occasional state legislator from some podunk Georgia town who rents a crash pad next to the county building during session. Here, there is zero housing stock. In fact, I can name the only two apartment buildings in the zip code: City Plaza Apartments, and some other run down halfway-housing near the city jail on Memorial Dr.

The healthy medium for the biggest bang for your buck to population density would be southwest and southeast Atlanta in zip codes 30311 and 30315. Both working class zip codes with a moderate crime rate and public schools that trundle along the bottom of the Atlanta Public School System, which just so happens to trundle along the bottom of performance measures for public school systems.

Now that you know the data, you can assume away and create your arguments accordingly. You can pick the side you think best represents who you think you are to the rest of the world and “vote with your feet”—as long as you give Charles Tiebout credit for such a fine quote and not Ronald Reagan, but we’ll talk about all that another time.

Data and map provided by


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