Why does a house in Cherokee County cost roughly $5,500 more to build than a house down the road in Cobb County?
Impact fees, which are charged to new developments to offset the increased need for infrastructure due to their construction, are the difference. These fees can be used for creating infrastructure like parks and roads and have become a way for some counties and cities in Georgia to increase their revenues.
But when comparing Cobb and Cherokee’s similar quality services and infrastructure, one has to ask what Cherokee is doing with that extra money. In the southern Metro Atlanta area, Henry County recently increased its impact fees to rates similar to Cherokee with a goal of expanding its infrastructure.
With housing becoming less affordable for Georgia families, it’s important to consider all of the extra costs, particularly government imposed fees like impact fees, associated with building new houses.
Cobb vs Cherokee & Henry Counties
Three metro Atlanta counties, each located on I-75, are quite different in their implementation of impact fees. They range from relatively moderate fees used to support parks and roads in Cobb, to the highest impact fee revenue jurisdiction in the state with Cherokee County. The highest percentage increase in the state occurred when Henry County more than doubled its impact fee in 2022. Cherokee and Cobb have similar infrastructure conditions with top schools and roads, while Henry County has more of an industrial base with slightly lower incomes and average infrastructure. Contrasting Henry and Cherokee with Cobb, it’s not immediately clear that impact fees are producing a positive quality-of-life difference commensurate with the costs they impose on new homebuyers and builders.
Cobb County currently does not have a county-wide impact fee, but the cities of Acworth ($500), Powder Springs ($669.36) and Kennesaw ($699) all levy impact fees for single-family homes that are significantly less than the state average ($2,439.62) and median ($2,010.18). Multifamily impact fees in these cities also fall significantly below the statewide average and median. These relatively low impact fees contrast with neighboring Fulton and Cherokee, which both levy impact fees at the city or county level significantly above the state average. Like other northern Atlanta counties, Cobb County has a relatively high household median income of $80,830, and maintains a reputation of having good schools and infrastructure.
Cherokee County, by contrast, has a county-wide impact fee of $2,008.64 for single-family homes and includes the cities of Canton ($3,945.75) and Woodstock ($1,509.72) that levy citywide impact fees in addition to the county’s. These joint city and county impact fees mean the rates in these Cherokee County cities are significantly higher than other jurisdictions in the state. Cherokee County derives significant revenue from impact fees: $8,576,705 in fiscal year 2021, which was the highest of any jurisdiction in the state. Compared to Cobb County, it has a similar median household income of $84,817, similarly good schools and good infrastructure.
Henry County has a relatively high single-family impact fee of $3,544.46, with the cities of Hampton ($229.15), McDonough ($2,209.16) and Stockbridge ($2,420.92) charging additional citywide impact fees. Compared to Cobb and Cherokee, Henry has a lower median family income of $71,110 and average school scores, and it has infrastructure that is somewhat overwhelmed by the amount of warehouses in the area that are a major part of its economy. Henry County has more cars per household than Atlanta, and new large warehouses and limited public transportation options have created a need to increase roads and infrastructure that supports freight transportation. It would be worthwhile for the county to determine how much new infrastructure supports industry versus residential development and whether impact fee rates match that need.
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