Affordable housing advocates and their allies in the General Assembly vowed Thursday to push for legislation that would get rid of a ban on rent control in Georgia that dates back to 1984.
Senate Bill 125 would do away with the provision in state law that prohibits local governments from imposing rent control in their communities.
Major corporations, some based overseas, have increasingly been buying up residential property in Georgia in recent years and charging tenants exorbitant rents, Rodney Mullins, an affordable housing advocate who worked on housing issues at the federal level under the Obama administration, told members of the state Senate’s Urban Affairs Committee Thursday. Rents have been going up by 20% to 30% a year in some locations, Mullins said.
“Parts of Georgia are housing deserts when it comes to affordability,” he said. “People are living in Walmart parking lots.”
Mullins said soaring rents are wreaking havoc on Georgians indirectly beyond having to dig deeper into their wallets to afford a place to live.
“If you continue this erosion of the home … it will push people into areas where they have no transportation,” he said. “Without transportation, you’ve made it really tough to maintain a job.”
“We have a huge problem with tenants being evicted as rents go up,” added state Rep. Terry Cummings, D-Mableton, who was sitting in on Thursday’s Senate committee meeting. “It’s a problem across the state.”
Sen. Donzella James, D-Atlanta, who chairs the all-Democrat Urban Affairs Committee, introduced Senate Bill 125 last February. But the measure went nowhere in the Republican-controlled General Assembly.
Mullins said the bill would represent a good start toward solving the problem of high rents in Georgia. But even if it could get through the legislature, he said more steps would be needed.
“If you have rent control, you have to have an enforcement capacity,” he said. “If you don’t, the law falls flat.”
Sen. David Lucas, D-Macon, suggested Georgia could dip into the state’s unprecedented $11 billion in undesignated surplus to pay for enforcing the law. With the second year of the two-year legislative term beginning in January, the bill remains alive for consideration.