ATLANTA-Bombarded with new apartments over the past decade, Atlanta, which ranked among the nation’s most active apartment markets, now flounders with a notable exception, the South Atlanta/South Fulton County area, according to analysts at Carrollton, TX-based M/PF Research.

In a new report M/PF pegs that area’s March 2002 occupancy rate at 94.4%, Atlanta’s tightest and 3.3 points above the metro-Atlanta norm.

The area gained eight new apartment communities totaling 1,460 units during this year’s first quarter, giving it the third highest number of completions in the Atlanta area for the quarter, just behind the perennial leaders, West and East Gwinnett County, which added 1,700 and 1,800, respectively.

Occupancy in communities built during the 1990s or later in the South Atlanta submarket reached 95.9%, more than two points higher than the occupancy recorded in newer product, M/PF reports.

Joseph Clements, an M/PF senior researcher, attributes the demand to “an increasing collection of better-quality product, comparatively affordable rental rates, and a location within close proximity to both the metro’s thriving downtown district and Hartsfield International Airport.”

The submarket’s healthy occupancy, Clements says, “has allowed apartment owners/managers to increase rents by 3.6%. In contrast, metro Atlanta rents were cut 0.5% from March 2001 to March 2002.”

Annual same-store rent growth in this South Atlanta submarket ranked as the fourth highest among South region submarkets that completed at least 1,000 units in the year ending March 2002, the report states.

Despite the area’s currently solid performance, M/PF notes, “developers appropriately remain cautious, as only 472 units are currently under construction.”

“With the immediate outlook still positive,” Clements says, “the South Atlanta/South Fulton County apartment market should register among Atlanta’s more stable neighborhoods in the near term.”

He predicts “therea still should be the metro’s occupancy leader a year from now.”

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