Senate Democrats are gearing up to resume their longshot bid to repeal Georgia’s decades-old ban on rent regulation when state lawmakers reconvene under the Gold Dome in less than four months.

State Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, proposed Senate Bill 125 last February to do away with a 1984 law that bans Georgia counties and municipalities from enacting any measures to regulate rents.

The bill stalled in March without a vote in either the Georgia House or Senate, locked out by a Republican-controlled legislature that historically has had little appetite for progressive housing policies. What’s more, a sizeable percentage of Georgia lawmakers are landlords.

In the upcoming General Assembly, James intends to hammer home the idea that the state’s affordable housing crisis is nonpartisan and affects all Georgians, she said at a Sept. 14 meeting of the Senate’s Urban Affairs Committee. James chairs the Democrat-led committee.

“We’re going to make sure that we look at this not only as a problem throughout Georgia, but also throughout the nation,” James said. ”Without a cap placed on rent, costs skyrocket.” 

“We are attempting to lift the ban so that municipalities and counties can be able to take care of their residents,” she added.

Affordable housing advocates told the Urban Affairs committee that capping rent prices or limiting rent increases could prevent price gouging, stem evictions, and allow more people to secure stable housing.

But lobbyists for landlords claimed any rent stabilization statutes would sink property values, decimate housing quality and stifle tax-generating development.

The committee also heard from a number of low-income renters and their family members, who shared stories of landlords doubling—or even tripling—rent when their leases expired.

Jodie Willliams said her daughter, an Emory University student, now lives with five roommates. She and her roommates opted to pack their house when rent went up, instead of being forced to move out of town. 

Many others don’t have that luxury, she said, and end up without homes. “These people in tent cities, they don’t want to leave Atlanta.”

Mableton resident Alonzo Williams, who looks after his elderly, disabled mother, said he was on his way to buying the home he rented for them when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. 

The rent more than doubled when the lease expired, Williams said, and their landlord filed for eviction. 

“How are we ever going to get out from underneath the weight of renting? How can we be homeowners if we don’t have any sort of legislation that prevents us from being homeless?” he asked. “We just want to be treated like people.”

Landlord versus renter perspectives

SB 125’s supporters claim repealing the statewide ban on rent regulation would empower local governments to temper exorbitant rent increases. In Georgia, there is no limit to how much landlords can hike prices from lease to lease.

But Stephen Davis, the lobbyist for the Georgia Apartment Association, said the legislative push is misguided, even though “the idea of rent control may appear an attractive solution to the affordable housing crisis.”

Davis said any type of rent control or stabilization is bad for landlords and tenants alike, because it will “reduce housing supply, lower property values, and decrease the quality of available properties.”

“Adding additional housing units to the market is the best way to address the housing demand and crisis,” he said. “Simple supply and demand.”

But new housing often isn’t affordable to most people, said Elizabeth Appley, the lobbyist for the Georgia Supportive Housing Association, Enterprise Community Partners, and other housing advocacy groups.

For additional housing supply to bring down costs, she said, “it has to be the right supply.” New construction that is affordable requires government subsidies, she explained. 

Meanwhile, she added, “naturally occurring affordable housing” is quickly vanishing in fast-growing cities like Atlanta. “Older properties maybe haven’t been well maintained; those are being destroyed and replaced with luxury units. This does not help the people whom we’re trying to address who have needs,” Appley said.

SB 125’s critics must realize it’s cheaper for the state to allow municipalities to regulate rents and keep people housed, instead of enabling evictions, Appley said.

“It’s relatively inexpensive to keep families safely and stably housed, as opposed to the cost of eviction,” she said, adding that displaced people are often forced to seek out government-funded services, such as welfare benefits, homeless shelters, and hospital stays.

At the start of last year’s legislative session, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens said repealing the statewide ban on rent regulation and enacting local legislation to limit the rate of annual rent increases is a critical part of the solution to Atlanta’s escalating affordable housing crisis.

“We won’t be able to build our way out of this crisis,” he said at the time, because there is too much pent-up housing demand amid Atlanta’s development boom.

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  1. This is something that need to discuss in the Auburn Alabama area as well, there are lots of people and elderly people that are being forced to move out of their homes due to the rent being so high and the government assistance not being able to fund them the amount that’s being asked for either it’s they have too many rooms or the rents too high one of the other either way is causing a lot of people to be homeless they’re consistently building up homes for the rich but what about the low income based people that’s been living here for centuries and decades. So this is definitely something that needs to be brought to the attention of the people in Auburn Alabama as well. And not just only brought to the attention but where is the law for Auburn Alabama that the government assistant housing is able to help by homes they have those laws for help in different places just not Auburn.

  2. Rincon Georgia resident here. I notice a lot of new apartment and duplexes being constructed this year. Rent is over $2000 for a 2 bedroom. I can’t afford that and I have a Masters Degree and hold licensures in 2 states trying to stay afloat. I reside in income based housing that was recently purchased and is going to be going through renovations in November. We have already been told our rent will increase but our annual income caps are not changing. How can they charge us more but say we are not allowed to make more? If I make more, I will be evicted. So, I guess our increased rent will be deducted from our grocery, utility or funds to support our children. If we get evicted, there is no where to go. Rent is too high. If you’re wealthy or have two incomes, it can be afforded. What about single mothers who can’t live with roommates for child safety purposes? Something has to change.

  3. I pray it does, as rent where I live is way to high for older and younger people with the cost of daycare two people working means two vehicles and landlords not putting money into the buildings they rent .

  4. This happen to me im disabled,67 live in this complex for 36 years they went up 3 on my rent forged my name on something I didn’t sign and the rent keeps going up now 250 dollars more what a. I to do pull a rabbit out the hat better yet pull money out the hat .I lived here all my life. It’s sad to see how seniors are being treated.

  5. And to add to the problem you have the big companies Realtors like Excalibur progress, Main Street Renewal and all others big realtor company buying up properties and over pricing the property that are not affordable and not worth the price of where the condition of the property. And then you apply for one of their property they’ll tell you that they don’t have application pending on them and then have you go out to view them and then for you know it is taken off the market then you out of application fees and take your application fees and don’t refund your money back when the property is no longer available and also the qualification is ridiculous who making three times the rent these days

  6. Sometimes renters cause their own problems by adding more people in the home, pets, not maintaining the home, disturbing neighbors etc. Doubling the rent is one way to get rid of bad renters without the cost of eviction. Being a landlord is an investment for profit, not a charity. If you want to home low income people with rent control, then build government housing and control those rents. Otherwise, if you cap landlords, they will get rid of their rental properties because it will no longer be a viable investment. You will create a worse problem of available housing.

  7. It is no coincidence that markets with rent control have some of the highest average rents in the country. Look at San Francisco and New York.

    Journalists and politicians refuse to address the elephant in the room– the court system in DeKalb, Clayton, and Fulton is broken, allowing thousands of non-paying residents to continue to occupy their apartments long past when an eviction would have occurred under normal circumstances. In some cases, individual non-paying residents owe upwards of $40K.

    Some of these same non-paying residents have been terrorizing their rent-paying, rule-abiding neighbors for months and months, and landlords are powerless to enforce the rules and improve their communities when troublemakers know there is no threat of imminent eviction. Many of the problems described by frustrated residents in the recent “Dangerous Dwellings” series of articles in the AJC, such as noisy, drug-dealing squatters in neighboring apartments, are excellent examples of the suffering caused by these counties’ failure to enforce the law.

    By holding timely hearings and executing evictions expeditiously, as required by Georgia law, these municipalities could make available thousands of affordable rental units. Rather than piling on with new rent control laws that would likely do little to improve affordability, enforcing existing laws would immediately add to our scarce supply of affordable housing.

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