As Peachtree City turns 65, a look at how housing choices help us


This follows-up a previous letter about the importance of discussing affordable housing in our community. Although I do not enjoy confrontation and it is a bit silly to respond to mostly anonymous comments, I will take some more time and vulnerability to broaden this discussion and not let online ornery and antics shut down community conversations.

Let’s move past playing gotcha with words, such as “urbanization” (Peachtree City is already urbanized and is one of the only places I know that has “city” in its name) and “sustainable” (the most conservative thing we can do is use resources carefully, the UN doesn’t need to tell us that).

We are located within a larger area that is rapidly urbanizing, including formerly rural areas of Fayette, Coweta, and Clayton Counties. We need to discuss how the housing shortage is affecting us now and in the future, and how we can guide urbanization to create options in the built environment that will create affordability and prevent perpetual fragmentation of farms and forests.

I will add one more gotcha word — density — and string all those words together to the bottom line (some of us may need to brace ourselves): well-designed density, aligned with efficient infrastructure and permanent farmland/forest protection, is the best hope for sustainable urbanization.

I appreciate the questions of what affordable housing means and agree that defining the issue is a critical first step. I do not speak for anyone but myself, my only relationship with any of our elected and appointed officials is that I am a constituent that wants decision-makers to be aware of, and working toward, issues that need proactive and creative planning.

I am a city/regional planner by profession (outside of this region) and am fortunate to work with many cities and counties, all of which are wrestling with land, infrastructure, and housing constraints.

I am also fortunate that, as part of my job and personal convictions, I am continuously learning about issues facing us throughout the U.S. (from rich cities all the way to rural towns). I write as a citizen that wants my representatives to be brave about discussing these issues, as we can see that simply saying a phrase such as “affordable housing” can create a lot of unknowns and uncomfortable reactions that can thwart productive discussion.

What I mean by affordable housing is having sufficient buying/renting choices that meet and anticipate many current and future residents’ needs.

Housing in the United States falls along a wide range, from large multifamily developments to the single-family homes that Peachtree City is committed to being the backbone of our neighborhood character.

There are many “middle” housing options within that range that can help create more choices, such as guest houses, cottage homes, duplexes, townhomes, and small-scale condominiums/apartments.

Communities benefit from having safe and quality housing options that enable more people of a range of ages and income brackets to live near daily activities without paying an outsized portion of their earnings (benchmark is that generally paying 30% or more of one’s income can burden many households).

I am an advocate of jurisdictions taking incremental steps, ideally with local developers on lots with existing infrastructure, to add “missing middle” housing options through diverse building approaches that align with neighborhood/community character, local goals, and honor the land.

As I’d mentioned previously, I am alarmed that housing costs have gone up about 40% over the last 5 years, with a modest 3-bedroom house down the road being sold for an amount that may be unattainable to a large number of local young families and seniors on fixed-incomes.

All humans need a roof over their head, but most of us do not have incomes that can increase 40% every 5 years. Yes, these high values may favor those of us in the position of sellers/holders/investors, but most of us will be renters/buyers somewhere else at some point, and we won’t want to be on the other side.

A recent Council meeting included the suggestion for the homestead exemption calculations to be revised due to such high home values, highlighting a challenge our elders face in aging in place at these costs.

Rising housing costs do not have one cause, nor is there one solution; we can work together to increase quality supply and choice to reduce this relentless upward pressure and ensure this market works for more of us, not just a select few.

As has been in the news, most parts of the country are having a housing shortage that has inflated prices due to several factors including: the inventory of homes has not recovered to the amount needed after huge disruption from the 2008 recession, high costs for materials/labor to build new homes, high interest rates (which have been much higher before and will hopefully go down), investment companies buying/building properties and outpricing individual buyers, people moving from higher-priced markets and having higher purchasing power, absentee landlords, and regulations that have not encouraged a mix of housing types that can “right-size” homes to meet people’s needs.

When I bring up “current and future residents’ needs,” the nuance can be easily obscured because we start picturing “others” — yet I am equally talking about the current and changing needs of residents already here.

We all love our community and I understand the protective feelings and the initial pushback when we discuss our homes, which are generally our biggest assets and investments. I am not surprised with people asking, “Why is this my problem?” and “What does housing choice do for me?”

My question for fellow citizens is: what are your and your family’s current and future housing needs over the next 20 years, and are they available and attainable?

If you are a local business owner or customer, do you struggle with employee recruitment, turnover, and limited service due to low-wage workers choosing to work in lower cost of living areas?

Do you want to age in place here in Peachtree City, which could include being able to afford maintaining your current home or downsizing/transitioning to somewhere else in the city to stay close to friends, family, church, etc?

Or do you have plans to move closer to family, where those communities are hopefully having the same discussions and are creating quality housing choices for your future self? The goal of providing housing choices is not to change demographics — indeed, the changing demographics are what make housing choices the goal.

Here are some of the data and recommendations that I would like my representatives and local/regional/state decision-makers to consider:

• Over half of the population is adults living without kids, either alone or as a couple. Only 20% of our population are nuclear families, while 90% of homes in the U.S. are located in conventional, single-family neighborhoods (source: AARP’s Making Room Report).

• Farms are prime for two key things: growing the food that we all need, and growing subdivisions (which are often a monoculture of one type of homes due to local regulations). We have a mismatch in the types of homes being built; mainly still 3+ bedrooms single-family on large lots that eat up our land versus other options that could fit into new and existing neighborhoods for the 80% of households that are becoming older, smaller, and wanting less space (e.g., enabling a mix of single-family and duplexes).

• Peachtree City and many other municipalities have a high number of low-paying jobs that creates a housing disconnect and instability for local business owners. Per the U.S. 2021 Census, over 50% of the jobs in the city pay less than $3,333 per month or under $40,000 per year, which puts most local rents or mortgages out of reach. A 2020 Fayette Chamber of Commerce workforce needs study determined that local employers are having staffing turnover because low-pay employees must commute to our area (which also adds to traffic we collectively grumble about).

Peachtree City is already built out with existing lots and homes that we can voluntarily and creatively use to create housing supply and options for people that want to live, work, and age here.

• We can ensure that codes allow at least 4 unrelated people to live together in single-family homes. Having roommates isn’t just for college kids, and can also be an ideal housing option for people with life changes or living with chosen family (e.g., divorced parents, widows/widowers, single people, unmarried couples/families).

• We can enable all residents with a single-family primary residence to build Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs, also go by many other names such as Backyard Cottages, Guest Houses, In-Law Apartments) within the building envelope of their property. These ADUs can enable parents/grandparents to move closer to kids, have a caretaker live nearby, or increase options for a long-term renter.

Just as we do with detached garages and accessory dwellings in certain districts, we can have careful codes that allow people to build aesthetically pleasing structures that fit with the property and neighborhood.

• We can modernize zoning codes, building codes, land development codes, and/or unified development ordinances to align with the types of housing and permitting we want to see (a lot of codes are decades old, well before we had Airbnb and other new housing considerations).

We should ensure that Home Rule stays in place to enable us to have high design, environmental protection, and construction standards. I applaud the city for requiring a certain amount of new homes in subdivisions to be designed for people of all ages and abilities with ground floor master bedrooms. These types of housing configurations are so important, as I recently read that people who fall after age 65+ have a 30% chance of passing away or returning to the ER within a year (source is from “Outlive,” a book I’m about to return to our awesome library).

• We can support flexibility and creativity with outdated commercial areas, overbuilt parking lots, and infill properties that can be refreshed with well-designed and walkable mixed uses of businesses, greenspace, and housing.

• We can work with neighboring jurisdictions to get ahead of the conversion of rural land to development by extending infrastructure strategically and supporting farmland protection through easements, fee-simple purchases, and tax incentives. We should prioritize compact, environmentally sensitive development where there is existing infrastructure and maximize quality infill development in mixed-use areas that creates housing choices.

• We can support a housing study and an annexation study for updated data to work with.

• We can encourage residents of all generations to be included in planning for housing choices.

• We can applaud economic development from new and growing industries while also encouraging authorities to consider and support quality workforce housing that fits each community.

• We can collaborate with other jurisdictions, stakeholders, and subject-matter experts to get ahead of corporate-investor housing and ensure best practices are in place to make sure these developments/practices are an investment in the community, not just investors.

To come full circle with my emphasis on planning for housing for all ages and abilities: when I heard that Peachtree City is about to turn 65, you can imagine the analogy that popped into my head!

Our city is at the age where we should be looking at what we can be doing now to make us stronger and robust as we all keep maturing. We can reinforce and maximize the infrastructure we have in place and be intentional about land use and housing decisions that affect our current and future selves.

Changes in our lives don’t always subtract and instead can be additive. As one example, volunteers have already looked at our beloved paths from an aging framework in partnership with AARP and made updates for people who may have mobility challenges.

Cheers to Peachtree City as it enters its seventh decade. It is indeed a privilege to live in this planned community, though we do not honor its spirit when we act like it’s gated. May we take steps to live out its intent as described in the 1972 Master Plan (available on the city’s website).

As the first page of the introduction states, “Peachtree City New Community is oriented toward people — people of every age and income group.” We’re maybe not so new, but let’s age gracefully through collaborating with ourselves and our neighbors on housing options and smart, responsible growth.

Stephanie Wagner

Peachtree City, Ga.


  1. Apparently, this “affordable housing” horse isn’t yet dead, so I’ll beat it some more. Nearly everyone agrees “affordable housing” is not compatible with current Peachtree City property owners. We are not so much selfish, as we understand real estate’s “Rule of Progression” and “Rule of Regression.” Most of us have invested a lot in our homes and neighborhoods and do not want to see our investments diminished.

    I personally think we can use “garage apartments” in a value building way. I also think we need to quit feeding deer so we can grow ornamental plants and trees. I can only see Peachtree City as a long term (hundreds of years) success as a garden community.

    • Agree Doug. Perhaps our planning expert author will address property owner rights in her next essay. Single family residential property owners comprise the majority of real estate, and to date their preference are not addressed.
      I’ll tolerate the deer.

  2. Many thoughtful and great comments – all opposed to what the author is trying to justify.

    The bottom line is that no one has made a case for benefit to existing citizens, no one has even made a case for a general benefit to the community.

    I live in an area of $700K to $3M homes and there are more kids at the bus stop every year. There is more diversity in my neighbors every year. Seems we are doing something right.

    The only thing I hear in this letter to the editor and in the Mayor is that there is more money to be made and I want it. Well fine – go find it somewhere else!!!

    We don’t want your “solutions” here!

    • Hi Citizen Al

      I agree with you. While I appreciate the authors thoughts I challenge her as a professional planner to show where this approach has had long term success for all involved.

      A few years ago, I had the opportunity to work with the Atlanta Housing Authority in a period where Mrs. Renee Glover was the CEO. Mrs, Glover was offered the HUD position by both Bush and Obama. She brought a number of excellent affordable options to Atlanta using Project Based rental options (PBRA) and Mixed Income Mixed Finance Options (MIMF) The replaced the housing projects at Techwood with Condos that surround GT and Centennial Olympic Park.

      However, a number of projects where 40% were supposed to be lower income and 60% at “market” filled up the low income without the other units selling. ( Capital Homes Project ) The fact is that efforts to integrate lower income housing in upper income housing has resulted in lower values with no public benefit.

      A lot of the transformation of Atlanta public housing came with a migration of lower income families to Clayton County. In my recent article I showed that Clayton has 40% less land than Fayette but 140% more people. It does not have the property tax basis to support its population.

  3. Stephanie – Thanks for taking another shot at justifying the mayor’s “affordable housing” priority for PTC, but as with previous commenters, I am still left wondering – – what’s positive in it for current residents?

    And you don’t say how many affordable housing units PTC needs, nor what cost is “affordable”? With your expertise as a central planner by profession, I expected at least a range of desired outcomes.

    You inspired me to look on Zillow at Serenbe, the progressive nature commune 17 miles northwest of PTC, to see how they are doing with affordable housing. Serenbe also has a “brand” like PTC of a livable place with community benefits for residents, so no doubt they’ve solved it, right?

    Zillow shows 16 million-dollar homes in the 55 listings of places For Sale in Serenbe, with a range of $489,000 for a 1 bed, 1 bath, 892 sq ft condo (!) up to $1,625,000 for a 3 bed, 3 bath, 3,682 sq ft home.

    Most other homes are in the $650,000 to $900,000 range. If you are a camper-type, you can secure a lot in Serenbe for $375,000 to $925,000. “Affordable”?

    Good for Serenbe residents. They’ve created a distinctive place where people want to live. As a result of that demand, they are willing to pay a premium for property there. Sounds like PTC.

    My question to you and the mayor is: if Serenbe cannot or will not ensure “affordable housing” in their community, why should PTC (or more broadly, Fayette) take that on?

    I wouldn’t support imposing an affordable housing “solution” on Serenbe, just as I won’t back the mayor’s directive that PTC must change its character to pack in more residents.

  4. “well-designed density, aligned with efficient infrastructure and permanent farmland/forest protection, is the best hope for sustainable urbanization.”

    Ms. Wagner – you’re missing one key point. We do not WANT urbanization here in Peachtree City and Fayette County. If you want urbanization – go elsewhere. Coweta, Fulton, Clayton, and Henry have plenty of it. Go spread your ideas there. You do not seem to realize that what has made Fayette County desirable is the lack of urbanization, championed by controlled rural development with 5 acre minimums, and by higher-than-average home values that have created stable populations of citizens who desire something different than what is found in surrounding counties.

    Why, dare I ask, are you pushing to radically transform and ruin what Peachtree City has so successfully built? Whose bidding are you doing? Which developer or real estate agent is putting the words in your mouth as you construct these LTE’s?

  5. Stephanie – again, kudos for putting yourself out there, and you have an excellent command of the English language. This is quite a long letter, so I’m going to limit my comments to a few parts. And I will try to remain civil and ask others to do the same, snark doesn’t seem to help.

    I still maintain that for most citizens the question is “does this make PTC a better place to live for those of us who are here now” and I don’t see you making that case. You cite a lot of data and statistics but don’t show how that leads us to supporting “affordable housing” (AH henceforth for brevity’s sake).

    You say “AH” to you is “having sufficient buying/renting choices that meet and anticipate many current and future residents’ needs”. Good news – we are there already. Seriously, PTC has “sufficient buying/renting choices that meet and anticipate many current and future residents’ needs.”

    You indicate that local businesses struggle to fill jobs in part due to housing costs. Let’s assume that’s true, this is an issue in many communities, businesses may have to pay a slightly higher wage or get creative to meet these challenges. And, yes, this may result in higher prices at Zaxby’s or Kroger, but I think we’re a long way from this justifying changes in PTC’s housing and zoning plans or annexation.

    You suggest that “AH” will improve our traffic – having people drive from the newly annexed area into PTC rather than from Fayetteville doesn’t seem like it’ll make much difference. Nor does driving from a live/work/play mixed use three-story development across town. And increased density doesn’t sound like a traffic solution.

    Having 4 18 year-olds rent the house next door does not give me good vibes. I know I’m being a grumpy old person, but I bet I’m not the only one.

    You are correct that many of us who aren’t keen on these ideas may find ourselves on the outside looking in someday down the road, wishing these options were in place. But that unlikely (we hope) event doesn’t seem to justify changing the very successful approach PTC has followed.

  6. I can’t help but believe the premise of the Author’s argument is rooted in only anecdote rather than factual data. Consider the following:

    – 179/606 real estate transactions within Peachtree City over the last year are less than the 425k, with many having greater than the 1300 sq ft. mentioned in the Author’s previous letter. That is nearly 30 percent of the total. Further, 70/606 are under $325k.

    – Many of these homes are of diverse housing type, including townhomes which align with the authors goal of density.

    – Rents for Peachtree City are as low as $1,325 a month for a 2 bedroom. This seems reasonable for the area.

    – 2023 DCA payment standards, which outlines the maximum housing vouchers will pay is $2,552 for a 3 bedroom home in Peachtree City. This is important because voucher programs promote diversity and inclusion of all people, regardless of income. There are homes listed for rent in this budget, and the DCA rental assistance program only charges 30% of the voucher holders income.

    Given the above, I can’t help but reason that Peachtree City provides a diverse set of housing options for a diverse level of incomes. Is this issue, which aligns with certain political beliefs and activist action plans, perhaps manufactured and not really an issue at all?