A proposal that would force landlords receiving public subsidies to accept government-backed rent vouchers cruised through two Atlanta City Council committees this week and heads to a deciding vote next week.
Authored by City Councilmember Liliana Bakhtiari, the legislation calls on local public agencies—including Atlanta Housing, Invest Atlanta, the Atlanta Beltline, MARTA, and the Fulton County Development Authority—to add a provision to financing deals with developers requiring complexes to recognize Section 8 vouchers as a legitimate income source for rent payment.
Bakhtiari told Atlanta Civic Circle last week that they expected the resolution to pass “with flying colors.” Now, the proposal could head to Mayor Andre Dickens’ desk for final approval as soon as Nov. 21, after the council meeting.
During Wednesday’s Finance/Executive Committee meeting, City Councilmember Keisha Waites praised Bakhtiari for championing what she called “extremely important legislation,” adding that “the city has often moved policies that have created some of the challenges that we’re dealing with.”
Housing experts have criticized Atlanta leaders for propping up private developments with public dollars—even when projects would be feasible without subsidies. They’ve called the anti-Section 8-discrimination proposal a crucial reform that could crack down on source-of-income discrimination—the common practice of turning would-be tenants away because they rely on government help to pay rent.
“This is long overdue,” Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck tweeted on Monday, adding that he’s been wondering for years why the city “doles out millions of dollars in subsidies without requiring apartment buildings to accept housing vouchers.”
Bakhtiari’s proposal, for which they received input from the Atlanta Legal Aid Society and mayor’s office advisors Courtney English and Joshua Humphries, mirrors legislation passed this summer by Charlotte’s city council.
Atlanta Civic Circle reported in July that legislation like Charlotte’s could help expand access to Section 8 vouchers at a time when many recipients end up returning them, faced with a dearth of apartments where landlords accept vouchers.
Eugene Jones, Atlanta Housing’s CEO, told Atlanta Civic Circle that the proposed city council resolution would enable the housing authority to severely chip away at its waitlist of apartment-seekers, which today includes more than 24,000 applicants.