In response to Atlanta’s increasingly unaffordable rental market, the City Council is considering a non-binding resolution to create a Tenant’s Bill of Rights that would provide a framework for better renter protections. 

The legislation proposes due-process protections for renters such as an Office of the Tenant Advocate and the right to a lawyer in eviction proceedings.

Notably, the resolution also proposes rent control, in the form of “reasonable limits on ever-increasing rents to stabilize housing costs.” But that provision, for one, faces political obstacles, because state law prevents any Georgia city from introducing rent control. Former City Councilman Antonio Brown sponsored a resolution urging state lawmakers to abandon the decades-old ban in 2020, in response to the mounting housing crisis, but to no avail

According to the resolution, sponsored by new City Councilmembers Byron Amos and Jason Dozier with help from advocacy group Housing Justice League, Atlanta needs better renter protections because the majority of city residents are renters—fully 56.5%—and Atlanta is one of the most expensive cities in the country for renters relative to their incomes, with 49.2% of renters paying over 30% of their income for rent. 

“Evictions, displacement, high rents, and exploitation of tenants in Atlanta have created a widespread and urgent crisis—thousands of renters are being pushed out of their homes and communities, or forced to live in hazardous conditions that threaten their health and safety,” it warns.

Here’s the full list of proposed renter protections:

  • A right to counsel in eviction proceedings
  • A dedicated Office of the Tenant Advocate
  • Property owners must provide tenants information about their rights at move-in. 
  • Reasonable limits on ever-increasing rents to stabilize housing costs
  • Protection from discrimination on the basis of previous evictions which may not have been justified
  • Tenants should receive reasonable notice and an opportunity to cure any lease violation so that the stain of an eviction can be avoided in the first place.

The Tenant’s Bill of Rights legislation is expected to go before a full-council vote on June 21, though it’s unclear if or when the proposed measures could begin to materialize. 

Amos and Dozier aren’t the only City Hall elected officials who want to rein in so-called predatory landlords—including real estate investors who have been buying up scores of single-family homes to market them as high-priced rental units. 

Investors bought up fully one-third of Atlanta-area homes on the market in the first quarter of 2022–the highest rate out of 40 U.S. metro areas tracked by Redfin. At a median sale price of $285,000, that represents mostly entry-level housing.

Mayor Andre Dickens told Atlanta Civic Circle during a June 2 press conference that he’s talking with the Biden administration and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development officials about the Wall Street landlords who have found metro Atlanta to be “ripe for the picking,” and that he wants to explore “how banks should be regulated and how they spend [money] in communities.”

Dickens expounded in a June 14 interview with Bloomberg, saying he suggests somehow reinforcing the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), which pressures banks to serve lower-income borrowers in areas where they are chartered. The CRA directs federal regulators to take banks’ lending and investment record in lower-income communities into account when deciding whether to grant applications for new bank branches or mergers and acquisitions. 

“The CRA was there to protect the existing homeowners—the community in one way—by making sure that we get reinvestment in there,” Dickens said. “This could be some 2.0 or some next level version of this CRA just to allow for communities to not be overrun by bank investors.”

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