Atlanta…..Renters and members of the Housing Justice League (HJL) testify to the Atlanta City Council (ACC) about the crisis in affordable housing and the rising cost of renting. These two factors are forcing low-income people and older adults who have lived in Atlanta for generations to be evicted. Their options are often limited to moving out of the city to find cheaper rent or becoming part of the homeless population.
Monica Johnson testified that “Before the pandemic, Fulton county had one of the highest eviction rates in the country with over eight hundred a week. We saw statistics in 2020 that approximately 10,000 deaths resulted from evictions. This is what happens when our housing is seen as a commodity.”
A nationwide moratorium on evictions was in effect during the Covid pandemic to prevent evictions. The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions expired on October 3, 2021, and evictions are spiking again.
Rent in metro Atlanta increased by 28.5 percent, and housing prices have gone up 30% in the past 12 months, while wages of working-class people have remained stagnant. This is the reason so many residents are demanding rent control.
Community leaders and renters ask the Atlanta City Council to adopt the Tenants Bill of Rights presented by the Housing Justice League to protect renters from skyrocketing rent increases. The city is losing productive citizens who can no longer afford to live in Atlanta.
“The Housing Justice League has been bombarded by people who can’t afford to stay in their homes. Our schools are being threatened to close because our communities have been displaced, and families are being moved out of their communities because they can’t afford to stay there. We need to balance the power between tenants and landlords.,” Alison Johnson, Executive Director of Housing Justice League, said.
“We will never have prosperity for the working classes, the disabled, and the mentally ill as long as we continue to allow ourselves to be ruled by the rich. The majority of Atlanta’s homeless are Black, and suicides by Black Trans youth continue to rise.” a homeless trans youth testified.
“Landlords can increase rent whenever they want to. There are no laws in Georgia to stop them. People have rent insecurities and need rent controls laws in Georgia. It is mainly women and children that are in this situation. There is a homeless encampment across the street [from City Hall and the State Capitol] with women and children homeless. Georgia is one of 25 states with no rent control laws,” Sherise Brown testified.
Former State Representative Able Mable Thomas (D-Atlanta) explained, “The State of Georgia controls rent. But unless there’s an enthusiastic commitment by the city council to put their influence in working with other countries throughout the municipality systems, we won’t have a chance to get rent control without a big push.”
A college graduate working on her master’s degree told the Atlanta City Council that she had lost hope of owning a home. She has made three attempts to purchase a home, but a developer snatched it away from her by raising the price every time.
Developers are buying up single-family homes because they have cash and can outbid hard-working citizens every time.”The loss of the American Dream of homeownership forces me back into the rental market,” Leslie said and wonders if the city intends to have only multi-millionaires living in Atlanta.
Atlanta has a lot of wealthy people but even more poverty, evictions, displacement, and homelessness. Rent increases primarily impact low-income women, children, and the elderly. Communities’ social and cultural fabric is torn apart as low-income people are forced out and high-income people move in.
Ali, a resident of the Seventh District, explains it this way, “Many factors including low wages, pandemic, no rent control, policies that favor landlords and developers have led to the exploitation of tenants in Atlanta and has created a widespread crisis resulting in evictions and homelessness. Renters need an Office of Tenant Advocacy to inform tenants of their rights and the JHL Tenants Bill of Rights,”
Zachary Murray is a landlord who supports rent control and tenant’s rights. “We don’t want our neighbors who build the city to be kicked out. They deserve to remain in the city.”
He explained to the ACC that they could use the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds like other cities and acquire properties where we can house the homeless and use the Atlanta Housing Authority lands to build housing for those who need it most. And not displace residents like you’ve been doing for decades to low-income people in the city.
“Only 1% of city-funded housing properties are being built for folks at or below 30% AMI, and that’s unconscionable and unacceptable. Public Land Policy needs to be enacted now to ensure that all public land is prioritized for affordable housing and public benefit, not for profit, not for developers,” Murray said.
Margie McLeod, with Concerned Black Clergy, did not get to speak at the ACC. She called the Streets of Atlanta and told this reporter what she wanted to say.
She said that a 90-year-old woman who had lived at Oglethorpe Place Apartments in the West End for17 years had to move because they no longer accepted residents based on their income. The elderly woman is now living with her daughter. McLeod said the 90-year-old was not the only one who had to move.
Written and photos by Gloria Tatum
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