Section 8 tenants need protections, but workable reforms face stiff opposition


The plight of six Section 8 tenants facing eviction from an upscale Beltline apartment complex serves as a case study in the barriers faced by low-income Atlantans seeking housing stability , said two housing experts and a member of the city council. Atlanta Civic Circle Friday.

Their situation highlights just how landlord-friendly Georgia’s laws are and the obstacles they present for progressive lawmakers to enact much-needed protections for people who pay rent with government assistance.

Carter-Haston, the owner of Nashville-based EDGE on the Beltline, is set to end its participation in Atlanta Housing’s (AH) housing choice voucher program and evict the six residents who depend on these grants to live in the former Fourth Ward apartment complex. The landlord gave them until August 31 to find new accommodation.

The local housing authority is trying to persuade the property investor to keep its Section 8 units in the complex, but AH lacks the legal and political clout to force Carter-Haston to comply.

“This saga likely reflects similar situations across the city,” Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, who represents the district where EDGE is located, said in an interview. “It shows how easy it is for people who are in Section 8 [voucher holders] or on the sidelines to slip through the cracks.

In an ideal world, Farokhi said, Atlanta would have a binding law requiring all landlords to accept rent payments via vouchers. But Georgia’s housing law prohibits the city from enacting legislation to that effect.

A law prohibiting landlords from discriminating against tenants using public subsidies would provide significantly more housing for low-income Atlantans, AH CEO Eugene Jones and Georgia State University sociology professor Deirdre Oakley agreed. She studied the difficulties faced by low-income Atlanta tenants using Section 8 vouchers to find new homes after the city tore down the public housing projects where they lived in the 1990s and 2000s.

“We have to go to the state [legislature] and say, “The owners have no right to not accept Section 8 vouchers,” Jones said.

But it’s a pipe dream with no major policy pivot to make housing accessible by the state or even the federal government, housing experts said.

“Our profit-capitalist model does not serve low-income residents, especially low-income residents of color,” Oakley said. Especially in Atlanta, “landlords, developers, landlords who can get high market rates for their apartments have no incentive to rent to good tenants,” she said, even if they perceive Market-rate rents from Section 8 tenants, thanks to AH grants.

To increase the stock of affordable housing, Atlanta has enacted inclusive zoning laws for several rapidly gentrifying areas with skyrocketing rents. In exchange for density allowances and reduced parking requirements, developers are required to set aside new residential units in hot markets, including around the Beltline, for what the city considers affordable housing.

But those units are rarely affordable for those most in need of housing, Oakley said, referring to families earning 50% or less of the area median income (AMI). In the greater Atlanta metro area, that’s less than $43,000 for a household of four.

Even with the rents reduced by the inclusive zoning program, these apartments are hardly affordable for people with Section 8 support. The EDGE on the Beltline, for example, has 36 units set aside as affordable housing in exchange for tax breaks. , but rent is geared to income that is 80% of Metro Atlanta’s AMI.

The dearth of apartment owners willing to accept vouchers has placed AH’s Jones in Sisyphus’ role of whittling down a waiting list for voucher assistance that spans over 24,000 people, while those actually receiving this helps scramble to find ready complexes to rent to them.

“We MUST change ‘public housing’ [stigma] and pushing for national policy reform,” Jones tweeted on Friday. Faced with Georgia law prohibiting municipalities from requiring landlords to accept Section 8 tenants, he urged Atlanta to pass a law like the one just passed by the Charlotte City Council that prohibits properties with inducements to refuse to rent to voucher recipients.

Although a municipal law like this would be a small step, he added, it would still take a good deal of political will to make it effective.

Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature has always lacked an appetite for progressive housing legislation, Oakley said, and the issues facing EDGE residents are not unique or new.

In 2010, Oakley and other GSU researchers studied tenant relocation patterns of Atlanta public housing complexes demolished in the 1990s and 2000s.

“There were tenants who, over the course of a year, had moved six, seven, eight times,” she said. “It was a combination of the owners, like this Beltline owner, deciding they didn’t want to do [Section 8] more or simply very poor living conditions.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams unveiled her housing platform last month, calling for stronger protections for renters across the state. Dan Immergluck, professor of urban studies at GSU called Abrams’ ideas are “strong” but “ambitious” in a state where landlords have far more power than tenants.

Gov. Brain Kemp, the incumbent Republican, has yet to announce his policy goals on housing or other issues.

With the heavily Republican makeup of Georgia’s General Assembly unlikely to change much after the November election, Oakley isn’t optimistic about lawmakers’ contribution to the city’s housing affordability crisis. and the state.

“Who was the Beltline designed for? she asked, referring to EDGE’s fate regarding Beltline Section 8 tenants who are waiting to see if AH and Carter-Haston can decide whether they will be allowed to stay.

The original idea for the multi-purpose paved trail, conceived in 1999 as a master’s thesis by then-Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel, sought to create something for everyone by connecting Atlanta’s urban neighborhoods, allowing the highest and the lowest incomes in town to get around without a car.

The drama on EDGE about Beltline Section 8 tenants, Oakley said, shows how derailed that inclusive vision has been — and how far the city and state must go to make housing accessible to their most residents. underserved.

Source link


Comments are closed.