By Sean Keenan
Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown believes rent control laws would help combat the city’s housing affordability crisis.
The District 3 representative has drafted legislation that would urge state officials to overturn laws on Georgia’s books that preclude the enactment of rent control regulations. Members of the Atlanta City Council’s Finance/Executive Committee voted to approve the measure on Wednesday, sending it toward a potential full-council vote.
Currently, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated says, “No county or municipal corporation may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance or resolution which would regulate in any way the amount of rent to be charged for privately owned, single-family or multiple-unit residential rental property.”
Essentially, the law allows a landlord to hike rent prices as high as they please. The problem contributes to mass displacement in fast-developing areas, affordable housing advocates argued during Wednesday’s meeting at Atlanta City Hall.
“I don’t expect any industry to regulate itself … but [Brown’s proposed resolution] is a low-risk initiative,” said Tim Franzen, an organizer with advocacy group Housing Justice League, later adding, “It would send a message to residents that you prioritize them like you’ve so often prioritized developers.”
What rent control laws would look like in Atlanta remains to be seen, but, at their core, they would allow the government to place a cap on how high rent prices can be at certain properties.
But getting the state’s help with such an initiative is easier said than done. So says Dan Immergluck, an urban studies professor at Georgia State University.
“While I have no problems with this city action, I don’t know how effective it would be toward making such a large change in state law,” he said in an email to SaportaReport. “There would probably need to be a large statewide coalition of policymakers to make such a change — and perhaps a different legislature and governor.”
Immergluck said city officials would be better off trying to pursue more locally accessible avenues to help prevent displacement, such as income protection laws, which require landlords to accept all forms of payment for rent, including housing vouchers.
“Currently, the city’s housing authority has a hard time finding rental units for voucher holders, especially in middle or higher income neighborhoods,” he said. “A good number of states and cities have such laws. Also, the city should consider developing its own vouchers using local funds as part of its funding strategy. Other cities are doing this. But it would be more effective if there were a source of income protection ordinance on the books.”
Atlanta Housing CEO Eugene Jones told SaportaReport, “Landlords should not be allowed to turn down a Housing Choice Voucher participant looking for a quality home in the City of Atlanta.”
Immergluck also asserted, as he and others have done before, that local lawmakers supportive of affordable housing creation and preservation should focus on identifying “new sources of local, dedicated funding for affordable housing focused on those earning less than 50 percent of area median income.”