According to documents obtained by Atlanta Civic Circle through the Georgia Open Records Act.
When Nashville-headquartered real estate investor Carter-Haston bought the EDGE at the Beltline apartment complex in January from another investor, the Ohio-based Connor Group, the rent voucher deals of Section 8 that allowed six tenants to live in the high-rent building fell into bureaucratic limbo.
Carter-Haston and Atlanta Housing (AH) have been bickering for months to complete the paperwork required for the new owner to sue EDGE over Beltline’s participation in AH’s Section 8 program. It remains unclear if the deal could be salvaged.
“That remains to be determined,” Carter-Haston asset manager Zachary Mitchell said. Atlanta Civic Circle Wednesday. “Right now it’s fifty-fifty.”
Anita Byrd, an AH portfolio administrator, emailed Carter-Haston in early February, requesting documents that would allow EDGE’s new owner to continue participation in the Connor Group’s Federal Housing Voucher Program (HCVP). , according to the records.
What followed was an increasingly tense volley of emails between AH and Carter-Haston that left some of EDGE’s most marginalized residents worried about losing their apartments in the upscale development straddling Beltline.
In April, Carter-Haston asked AH to help herself and residents by using Section 8 vouchers to navigate the new HCVP request – a requirement when a property changes hands – but to no avail. .
On June 6, EDGE Community Manager Jennifer Reeves-Inthisane told AH in an email, “Our owners are considering canceling the program.” Byrd, to AH, responded a few hours later, saying she was “deeply saddened” to hear that Carter-Haston might stop participating in the voucher program.
The EDGE landlord sent lease termination notices to the six Section 8 tenants on June 15, telling them they would have to move out by August 31.
For a few weeks, Carter-Haston staff “desperately” attempted to reach HA officials “by phone and email without success,” according to a June 21 email Reeves-Inthisane sent to AH.
After AH’s radio silence for another week, the EDGE community manager followed up on June 28, “This is getting completely ridiculous.”
That same day, Reeves-Inthisane informed Byrd that Carter-Haston was preparing to terminate the Section 8 residents’ leases because he had not received payment from AH for half of their rents since the property had changed hands, due to the snafu.
All the while, Section 8 tenants like Marcus Dede, who moved into EDGE in 2019, have been caught in the turmoil, unsure if they’ll be able to keep a roof over their heads.
What happens to tenants?
At least until August 31, recipients of the rent vouchers are still living at EDGE, AH spokesperson LaConia Dean said. Atlanta Civic Circle. The housing authority is still hoping Carter-Haston will change its mind, file the required paperwork – “allowing us to resume payment on behalf of the families” – and renew the Section 8 agreements, she said.
Shortly after AH approved Dede for Section 8 benefits, he found EDGE “looking through a haystack with the smallest needle for an apartment that accepted the housing choice voucher”, a- he declared. Atlanta Civic Circle in an email.
For the past three years, the apartment has seemed like a bargain. But then, on June 15, Dede received a letter from Carter-Haston’s attorney telling him he had to move out by September.
“Our client is terminating the rental agreement for another good cause as they are no longer participating in the Section 8 program,” it read.
Dede said he immediately went to the rental office to speak with Reeves-Inthisane, but she couldn’t tell him much about why Carter-Haston was ending her participation in the voucher program. Instead, she could only suggest that he and other Section 8 tenants apply for one of 36 below-market apartments offered by EDGE as part of the city’s inclusive zoning policy. .
Dede said there was no way he could afford it. At EDGE, units with reduced rent are still priced at 80% of the area’s median income, according to AH docs.
“Which would make a unit like my 560 square foot unit at $1,350, and of course I would have to earn three times as much, when the whole point of me participating in the Section 8 voucher program is that I only earn not that good a month to pay that price,” Dede said.
“While this was going on, I tried my best to find other apartments that would accept him, but of course it’s like a very small needle in a very big haystack,” a- he added.
Dean, AH’s spokesman, said that if Carter-Haston ultimately decides not to participate in the voucher program, “AH will work with the families to find suitable alternative housing and will ensure that these families are housed in permanence”.
Can owners be forced to take out vouchers?
Low-income EDGE tenants like Dede aren’t the only ones at risk of losing their homes as rents continue to climb in Metro Atlanta.
Low- and middle-income renters across the city are finding it increasingly difficult to secure an affordable apartment, even with government subsidies such as Section 8 vouchers or requirements that landlords reserve a few residences for rent. below market in exchange for permission to build more units.
When EDGE Section 8 tenants first raised concerns that they could be evicted in June, Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi emailed Carter-Haston a letter accusing EDGE’s new owner of violating a city anti-discrimination ordinance that seeks to prohibit landlords from turning away rental voucher holders. .
However, the city law is not legally enforceable because it conflicts with state law, expert housing attorneys said later. Atlanta Civic Circle in July.
The city of Charlotte recently passed its own ordinance requiring landlords to accept rent vouchers, but it appears to be actually enforceable because, unlike Atlanta, the requirement only applies to properties that benefit from public subsidies, such as tax breaks.
Such a move might not help EDGE Section 8 tenants keep their apartments, but it could go a long way toward making Atlanta a more welcoming place to live for people who depend on government assistance to stay. accommodated.