Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams on Wednesday revealed a roadmap of ambitious policies that she says could “tackle Georgia’s housing crisis.”
Abrams said during a virtual press conference that her housing platform addresses education, crime, and public safety problems at their roots—by providing people with safe, stable homes. To do that, she laid out plans to expand affordable housing statewide, improve renter protections, and reign in predatory real estate investors and landlords.
But with a state legislature that will likely still be Republican-dominated after the November election, would a Gov. Abrams even have a prayer of seeing these progressive ideas realized?
“This is a solid set of policy proposals, [but] some quite ambitious, given a likely Republican-controlled legislature,” Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck tweeted Wednesday. “But there are some things a governor can do even without legislation.”
To foster affordability, Abrams proposed legislation for an over ten-fold increase in Georgia’s affordable housing trust fund—from $3 million to $32 million. She also wants to expand Georgia’s fair housing laws to require landlords to accept government-subsidized rent payments and “empower local governments to protect homeowners and tenants” by establishing statewide housing quality standards.
“We need to actually set standards for what qualifies as habitability; simply being on fire should not be it,” Abrams said, citing a recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation revealing widespread abuses from negligent, often out-of-state corporate landlords.
Abrams proposed a “certificate of habitability” mandate that would require “a provision basically built into a lease that holds the landlord accountable for ensuring the property is habitable.”
No such law exists today, Abrams said, so landlords and property owners often get away with renting squalid houses and apartments and wrongfully evicting people. “They terrify the tenants by putting in place leases that essentially lie to them about their rights—and often these tenants don’t have the wherewithal to fight back.”
Getting the legislature to adopt such policies in a state with a landlord-friendly and “very tenant-hostile system” would not be easy, Immergluck suggested on Twitter.
But Abrams said the legislature should be amenable to more progressive housing laws, because communities across the state are suffering from the effects of the corporate incursion in Georgia’s housing market.
“We know that the scourge of out-of-state purchasing of homes and rental properties—the skyrocketing prices—that’s not simply endemic to Atlanta,” she said. “Atlanta is ground zero. If you go to Savannah, it’s happening there. If you go to Albany, it’s happening there. If you go to Augusta, it’s happening there. It is happening across the state.”
Abrams’ isn’t placing all her faith in the legislature to address Georgia’s housing crisis. Her housing platform also calls for a trio executive orders.
One would prop up the Georgia Dream Homeownership program, which educates first-time home buyers and assists with financing. Another would increase requirements to produce affordable housing units for developers seeking federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. A third would ensure developments benefiting from state and local tax breaks—like those in tax allocation districts—keep affordable units affordable.
Abrams’ Republican opponent, Gov. Brian Kemp, has not yet released a platform for his potential second term.
But Kemp campaign spokesperson Tate Mitchell did respond to Abrams’ jabs that the governor had dropped the ball on $450 million in emergency COVID-19 relief funds dedicated to keeping people housed and “stood by as hedge funds gobble up housing and evict Georgians.”
“In the last year alone, Gov. Kemp has allocated $100 million to support nonprofits that provide affordable housing and aid individuals experiencing homelessness,” Mitchell said in a statement.