People Demand Rent Control and Housing Justice

Corporations are buying up single-family homes in Atlanta and turning them into rentals. This is happening across the country. In some areas, the rate of purchase by investors is over 50 percent. In 2021, investors bought over one-third of houses in predominantly Black neighborhoods in south and southwest Atlanta.

Housing prices have gone up 30% in 12 months, and rent in metro Atlanta has increased by 28.5%, while wages of working-class people have remained the same. With this historic rise in rent, people are being evicted and forced out of their homes. 

In some areas, the rent has gone from $700 a month to $2,000 a month, and this unprecedented rise contributes to homelessness in Atlanta. People making minimum wage can’t afford a place to live in Atlanta. 

Housing is a necessity, but governments allow the housing market to be treated as a game for the ultra-rich to rake in more money. Politicians need to start regulating the theft of communities by private equity groups.

“It is our right to demand housing and that the people who built this city stay in this city. We will not be forced out of the city because of the interests of investors and the interest of public and private developments. This is the beginning of a rent control campaign,” Alison Johnson with Housing Justice League said.

“The reason this is happening is that private equity groups like Blackstone are buying up property. Half the properties in neighborhoods south of 1-20 are mostly owned by private equity groups,” Tim Franzen, Program Director of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) Atlanta Economic Justice Program, said at a rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol. 

Franzen explained that when Blackstone buys up over half of the single-family homes in neighborhoods they set the rent, flip them into rental properties, bundle the leases, turn them into securities, and trade them on Wall Street.  

“It’s the same thing that happened during the (2007 – 2010) foreclosure crisis,” Franzen said. 

“Georgia has the sixth-highest rent in the county. People’s health and housing should be a priority, not the pockets of rich corporate developers and landlords. We see there are tax cuts for the rich, but where’s the money for regular people? People are being forced out of their cities. We know that gentrification is fundamentally racist,” an organizer with the Party for Socialism and Liberation said at the rally for Housing Justice.

Housing should be a human right, not a commodity to be bought, sold, and priced based on the greed of wealthy investors and landlords.

The Housing Justice League makes the three following demands of the Georgia General Assembly and Atlanta City Council.

1. Lift the state-wide ban on rent control: Georgia has had a ban on rent control since the 1980s. As long as this ban remains, landlords can continue raising rents at rates that displace people from their homes and communities. Effective rent control policies exist. Georgia needs to allow local governments to implement necessary policies to protect residents.

2. Pass Housing Justice League’s Tenants’ Bill of Rights. Georgia is far behind other states in protecting tenants, and tenants make up 56.4% of Atlanta residents. Tenants deserve to have stability in their lives. . Read the Tenant Bill of Rights here.

3. Curb corporations’ ability to buy large amounts of property: Predatory real-estate investors are snatching up land and houses before ordinary people can put down an offer. This contributes to rising housing costs as these houses are flipped and turned into rentals. We need new laws that limit the ability of investors to control enormous portions of the housing market and people’s access to housing.

Blackstone, which built Invitation Homes Inc. into the largest single-family landlord following the U.S. foreclosure crisis, …and shamelessly profited from the crisis. Sold Invitation Homes in 2019 and now have seller regret, according to Bloomberg News.

The Covid pandemic crisis is another opportunity for Blackstone to take advantage of working-class people’s misfortune and get into the single-family home rental business with a $6 billion acquisition stake in Toronto-based Tricon Residential Inc, which owns and operates more than 31,000 homes and apartments,

Blackstone is also acquiring Preferred Apartment Communities in an all-cash deal valued at $5.8 billion. These multifamily communities are located in Sun Belt markets, including Atlanta, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Single-family homes have long sustained the U.S. middle class and created stability and wealth for middle-class working people.  Now wealthy investment companies are outbidding potential homeowners. This makes it difficult for young people, individuals, and families to buy and own a home or pass it down to the next generation.

This is why the entrance of well-capitalized investors into the single-family home market is so upsetting to so many people. 

“There are all kinds of intricacies related to this issue. This is not just about housing. It is about how our communities have been gentrified, how the land has been taken, and how people have been removed,” Johnson said. 

Rhonda Robinson, a veteran with a Housing Choice Voucher, said, “I can’t find a place that will accept my voucher. The rent is so high that they are not eligible for Section Eight in many places. This is ridiculous. I have been searching, and I can’t find anything for my family.” 

“We have trillions of dollars to bail out the banks every time Wall Street bankers crash the economy, but there are no politicians to act in the interest of the working-class people.  We are fighting against high rents, gentrification, big landlords, evictions, and developers. We are demanding rent control, affordable housing, health care, and basic needs for the people, not tax breaks for millionaires and trillions for war and the military,” Leila, an organizer with the Answer Coalition, said.

What the country needs is a massive working-class movement to force these politicians to represent the needs of the people, not just the money people. We need to vote out all the white supremacists and vote in people who will represent diversity in the country and the needs of working-class people.

What you can do to help is show up at the next Atlanta City Council meeting at 1 pm on April 18th or sign up to provide public comment about the outrageous increases in rent in the city.

Sign the Housing Justice League online petition to repeal the ban on rent control and pass the Tenant Bill of Rights.  

Written and photos by Gloria Tatum

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