A volley of finger-pointing between the owner of a luxury apartment complex straddling the Beltline and federal and local housing officials is jeopardizing six lower-income renters’ housing security in increasingly expensive Old Fourth Ward.
Last month, the six renters at EDGE on the Beltline—where a studio demands between $1,440 and $1,900 monthly—contacted Atlanta City Councilmember Amir Farokhi, alleging property owner Carter Haston told them they could no longer pay part of their rent with government-subsidized Section 8 vouchers.
Not so, the real estate company told Atlanta Civic Circle last week, claiming the actual problem was that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had stopped paying its portion of the six tenants’ rent soon after Carter Haston bought the complex from developer North American Properties in January.
HUD said its Section 8 voucher agreement with EDGE expired when the property changed hands, and so it’s up to Carter Haston to engage the local public housing authority, Atlanta Housing (AH), to set up a new voucher deal.
It’s a tangled mess, and the fate of the renters ensnared in the bureaucratic feud is uncertain.
HUD stopped writing rent checks for the six EDGE tenants on Feb. 25, when Atlanta Housing learned a change of ownership had occurred, HUD spokesperson Shannon Watkins said in an email. She added that AH had made “several attempts” to solicit change-of-ownership paperwork and a rent-voucher agreement application from Carter Haston, but to no avail. AH officials declined to comment.
So, on June 28, Watkins said, Carter Haston “issued termination notices to all six participants and stated that they are no longer participating in the Section 8 program for that property.”
But Carter Haston asset manager Zachary Mitchell doesn’t remember things that way. “These statements are factually untrue,” he told Atlanta Civic Circle. Mitchell said his team asked AH for “executed [voucher] agreements for these units more than five times,” but AH didn’t turn them over until June 28, the same day HUD officially quashed the Section 8 deal for the six renters.
Amid the snafu, Carter Haston told AH it would no longer participate in the rent-voucher program, Mitchell said, but he added that the company is now completing the program’s owner application.
The convoluted case highlights the questionable legality of a 2020 ordinance from Atlanta City Council that sought to prohibit landlords from rejecting rental applicants who use Section 8 vouchers to pay rent.
Attorneys with experience in housing law and government accountability told Atlanta Civic Circle last week that the Atlanta law is unenforceable, because it conflicts with state law. Georgia’s fair housing laws must be changed, they said, to allow municipalities to bar landlords from turning away voucher recipients. These reforms could prevent the EDGE residents’ current dilemma from happening again elsewhere.