By Sean Keenan

During the latter half of Georgia’s 2020 legislative session, it’s unclear whether a proposal that would create a statewide definition of the word “family” for housing purposes has the legs to make it to the governor’s desk by April 3, when the session ends.

House Bill 980, drafted by state Rep. Teri Anulewicz, the Smyrna Democrat, and backed by a bipartisan slate of House representatives, would “define the term “family” in relation to local governments exercising zoning powers or administering and enforcing building, housing, or property maintenance codes,” per the bill’s language.

If passed, the legislation would help further legitimize companies such as PadSplit, which helps people split up their single-family homes as rental properties.

Current laws have barred so-called rooming houses in single-family neighborhoods in Atlanta, so PadSplits are designed in a way that allows tenants to meet the city’s complex definition of a “single family” – “up to six unrelated people, plus another four, as long as the latter occupy no more than two rooms,” according to a report by Bloomberg.

If HB 980 is ratified, Georgia code would be amended to define the word “family” as:

  • A single person, who may be an elderly person, disabled person, near-elderly person, or any other single person; or
  • A group of persons residing together and such group includes, but is not limited to:
    • A household with or without children, including a child who is temporarily away from the household because of placement in foster care;
    • An elderly household;
    • A near-elderly household;
    • A disabled household; and
    • The remaining members of a household

That language, as PadSplit CEO Atticus LeBlanc points out, would mirror the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of “family.”

Proponents of the cause have claimed the legislation “will keep local governments from unfairly limiting how many people can live in a house,” which would ultimately help reduce inequality, according to a petition recently launched by advocacy group Neighbors for More Neighbors of Metro Atlanta.

“The bill is bipartisan,” the petition page says. “Democrats like it because it helps reduce inequality. Republicans like it because it doesn’t cost public money.”

The organization also cites the current laws as “arbitrary” and “unfair” and claims that the current definition of “family” “criminalizes poverty.”

“For a lot of people — working people with poor credit or a past eviction — the choice is to split a house with other people or to be homeless,” the petition reads. “The law as it is today would prefer them to be homeless. There’s nothing about this bill that creates density because people are already living this way. They have no other choice.”

The supporters of HB 980 claim that the initiative could be derailed by a coalition of NIMBYs — people with a “not in my backyard” attitude — that oppose co-living and affordable housing, worrying it could decrease nearby property values.

Anulewicz did not immediately respond to SaportaReport’s inquiries regarding what hurdles still exist to get the bill through the Legislature, and this story will be updated as comments are provided.

Join the Conversation


  1. Every human being should have a place to call home. And having to wait forever to qualify to have clean, safe, affordable housing is a sin and displeases God. Do not despise the poor.

  2. Residents do not want this! This PadSplit company’s has no interest in the community but to pile short term renters in each home. This will cause more crime and lower property valuea all while ruining neighborhoods.

  3. One might note in passing that the people who want co-living as a way to create affordable housing in a socially-responsible way are perfectly happy to be identified … and the people who oppose it wear hoods online.

    I’m proud to support this work. Those who oppose it are ashamed of themselves, and should be.

  4. “Below is an incomplete account of the DeKalb County Magistrate Court hearing in which the DeKalb County Solicitor-General’s Office brought charges against an organization called I strongly urge everyone who attended this hearing to critically review the account given below. If there are errors or omissions, then I strongly urge you to correct the mistakes.

    Today, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, at 2 PM DeKalb County Magistrate Judge Matthew J. McCord presided over Code Enforcement violation hearings. Please allow me to set the stage for what occurred. As I was processing through the metal detectors to enter the courthouse, I heard one of the security officers make a comment to another officer. The general content of his statement was that he estimated that there were 200 people who were attending this hearing. When I entered the court room, there was standing room only. Also, there was a professional grade video camera at the back of the court room. I do not know which news organization was covering this court hearing. However, it is evident that the video reporter was there to cover this case. When the prosecutor invited all community members to leave the court room and assemble in the hall, the cameraman brought the camera to continue covering the event in the hall outside of the court room.

    The prosecutor for this case was Assistant Solicitor-General Karen Scott (Unfortunately, I did not get her complete name. Therefore, this is not completely correct.). Also, assisting in this hearing was Carolyn Smith, the Director of Communications for the Solicitor-General’s Office. A third person who assisted in this case was Investigator Bowers. All of these people are with the Quality of Life Unit in the DeKalb County Solicitor-General’s Office.

    When the case for was called, the attorney for this organization came forward. The attorney representing this organization is Carter Clayton. The attorney conferred with the staff of the Solicitor-General’s Office. At the conclusion of the conference, the Assistant Solicitor-General requested to address Judge McCord. The staff of the Solicitor-General’s Office requested that this hearing be continued to a later date. The reason stated for this continuance is that the present investigation indicates that there could be numerous other properties throughout DeKalb County associated with that have multiple code violations. The office of the Solicitor-General wanted to bring all of the cases before the court in a single hearing. In addition, it was stated that the community outcry over the multiple code violations and the distress caused in the community by these violations were very intense. To emphasize the intensity of the outcry, the Assistant Solicitor-General requested that members of the community who were there to demonstrate concern over these violations should stand. Almost everyone in the court room stood. I estimate that there were nearly 75 to 100 citizens who stood. Therefore, the Solicitor-General’s Office wanted to coordinate a meeting between the members of the community and representatives from Judge McCord granted the continuance. The new date for this hearing will be Thursday afternoon, April 30, 2020, at 2 PM.

    The staff of the Solicitor-General’s Office requested to be excused from the court to meet with members of the community. Judge McCord excused them, and we exited the court room. After we all assembled the in the hall-way outside of the court room, the Assistant Solicitor-General stated that she needed to return to the court room to present other cases. However, she stated that she wanted to assure the community that further actions would be taken and that a community meeting would be conducted before the next hearing date.

    During this conference in the hall, several citizens wanted to know if a stop-work order had been issued for the work being done to houses in their community. Mr. Timothy Hardy, the Director of the Code Enforcement Office, stated that stop-work orders had been issued for all construction that was being done where no building permit had been issued.

    One community member vehemently objected that one of these boarding houses had eight or nine adults living in one house. She stated that eight or nine cars were parked on the boarding house lawn and that some of the cars had to drive through her lawn in order to get to the street. Another neighbor stated that she lived next to another one of these boarding houses. She stated that the members of the boarding house congregated on their patio to smoke. She stated that she was absolutely certain from the smell of the smoke that drifted into her yard that it was not cigarettes that were being smoked. Several other community members stated some of their objections as well.

    The Solicitor-General’s Office staff took the email address of each citizen who wish to be kept informed of continuing actions by her office and the date and time of the community meeting to discuss this problem. We were told, “We hear you, ”and that the Solicitor General’s Office would take all available legal steps to address the issues.”

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