A conundrum that has several Old Fourth Ward renters fretting about their housing security has spotlighted the struggles of lower-income Atlantans living in fast-gentrifying communities.
Last week, Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi admonished the owner of a luxury apartment complex straddling the Beltline’s Eastside Trail for allegedly refusing to accept some renters’ housing vouchers, according to a letter his office sent to property management firm Carter Haston.
“Seven residents of the Edge [on the Beltline] have been notified that the property will no longer accept vouchers as a valid form of payment for monthly rent,” said the letter obtained by Atlanta Civic Circle.
But this is all just a misunderstanding, according to Zachary Mitchell, an asset manager at Carter Haston.
The property owner didn’t stop accepting government-subsidized rent, he said; in fact, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which provides rent assistance to low-income Americans via its Section 8 program, simply stopped paying its portion of the bill after the company purchased the complex from developer North American Properties.
If HUD, which did not respond to a request for comment, doesn’t get current on rent and start paying regularly, Mitchell said, Edge on the Beltline won’t continue to participate in the Section 8 program.
The dilemma brings into focus an ordinance the city council passed in 2020 that amended Atlanta’s fair housing laws to ban discrimination based on a person’s income—and if or how it could be enforced.
Rent vouchers and “any other rent subsidy or rent assistance program” qualify as a “source of income,” according to the ordinance.
So if Carter Haston—or any other property management company—opts not to participate in a voucher program, could they face penalties for violating the ordinance? That’s something Farokhi said he wants to explore.
“I think the story here isn’t this instance [with Edge residents],” the councilman said in a text. “It’s whether the city is enforcing the ordinance.”
Officials with Mayor Andre Dickens’ office and the city’s legal department were not able to tell Atlanta Civic Circle whether the city has yet fielded any complaints citing the ordinance as of press time.
In the meantime, even though Mitchell said Carter Haston has not filed evictions against these seven residents, their housing stability seems up in the air.
If they’re unable to secure HUD support, they could seek assistance from AH’s Section 8 program, although the local housing authority has a waitlist for services with more than 24,000 applicants.