AMI Explained: The Key to Affordable Housing Along the Atlanta BeltLine

Have you ever wondered what “affordability” means when we talk about housing around the Atlanta BeltLine? It’s a question we get often, and it’s a crucial one. To put it simply, affordable housing means that a low or moderate-income family can rent or buy a home without sacrificing other essentials like food, clothing, and healthcare. The federal government defines affordability as not spending more than 30% of your total income on housing expenses, including rent, mortgage payments, utilities, taxes, insurance, and related costs. 

But how do we determine what’s affordable, and why is it so important to the Atlanta BeltLine? 

The answer lies in “Area Median Income” or AMI. Think of AMI as a measuring stick for income levels in a broad region. It’s calculated annually by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and helps cities like Atlanta assess their affordable housing needs. 

Each year, HUD calculates the total annual income earned by families in a set geographical area, known as a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). It finds the middle point and calls it the AMI. Essentially, it’s the median income for households in the region. 

The City of Atlanta falls under the Atlanta-Roswell-Sandy Springs MSA, which has an AMI for 2022 set at $96,400 for a family of four. HUD adjusts these income thresholds based on family size and categorizes them as Low (≤80% of AMI), Very Low (≤50%), and Extremely Low (≤30%). 

The BeltLine has a goal of creating or preserving 5600 units of affordable housing by the end of 2030, but it is not a housing development agency. Rather, we work closely with partner agencies like Invest Atlanta, Atlanta Housing, City of Atlanta, Development Authority of Fulton County, and the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to ensure a diverse mix of affordable housing options within our Tax Allocation District (TAD) and the broader Atlanta BeltLine Planning Area. 

But affordability isn’t just about housing costs. It also involves access to good jobs and transportation, which directly impact income and quality of life. That’s why the BeltLine remains committed to housing, economic development, and transit, with the overarching goal of ensuring that everyone can participate in and benefit from its economic growth for generations to come. 

At the heart of it all, the Atlanta BeltLine is dedicated to building a more equitable and inclusive Atlanta—one where affordability isn’t a dream but a reality for all its residents. Watch the video below to learn more.

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