Atlanta Housing Rent Vouchers Refused by Landlords
- Over the past couple of years, affordable housing in Atlanta has become harder to find.
- To help low-income individuals and families receive housing, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development began giving out rent vouchers.
- Despite these rent vouchers, Georgia’s laws still allow landlords to refuse rent vouchers when tenants are paying their monthly balance.
Over the past couple of years, affordable housing in Atlanta has become harder to find. As a result, to help low-income individuals and families rent affordable housing, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) began giving out housing vouchers. The Section 8 vouchers can be used to help pay for rent. But recently, there has been some controversy regarding whether landlords have the authority to refuse tenants’ rent vouchers.
Current Housing Laws Regarding Rent Vouchers
Georgia’s current housing laws allow landlords to refuse rent vouchers. Unfortunately, this means those who rely on government assistance will have a harder time finding housing. In addition, the current state housing laws regarding rent vouchers have made it difficult for local governments to intervene and make a change.
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Despite the difficulties of improving housing laws in the local communities, Atlanta City council member Amir Farokhi warned property owners about rejecting these vouchers. In his letter, Farokhi cited a 2020 anti-discrimination ordinance prohibiting landlords from refusing these rent vouchers and including sources of income as a category to be protected from landlord discrimination.
The Atlanta City Council approved the ordinance brought forth by council members Antonio Brown and Amir Farokhi in a 13-2 vote. However, despite Farokhi's attempt to reduce and prohibit discrimination within the real estate market, the current state laws conflict with the ordinance, leading to lawyers questioning the legality of this local law. Due to the fact the ordinance is not legally enforceable, this has not prevented landlords from rejecting rent vouchers.
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Why Landlords are Refusing Rent Vouchers
Currently, one main property owner in Atlanta is refusing these rent vouchers, and that is Carter Haston. This issue arose when six renters at EDGE on the Beltline, a building that rents studio apartments, contacted Atlanta City Council member Amir Farokhi. They said the property owner, Carter Haston, was not allowing the vouchers to be used to help pay their rents.
Haston refuses rent vouchers because the government, specifically HUD, has stopped paying them. On February 25, 2022, HUD stopped writing rent checks to the six tenants at EDGE on the Beltline.
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So, the tenants believed the government was helping them pay their rent, but no one was actually paying the rest of the money Haston was entitled to. Consequently, on June 28, 2022, Haston issued a termination notice to the six tenants as they had not paid the full rent amount through no fault of their own, and stated that they would not be participating in this program again.
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What will Happen Next?
Unfortunately, despite Farokhi’s valiant efforts to help improve the housing situation in Atlanta, no steps can be currently taken due to the local laws' conflict with state laws. For the new local laws to be implemented, Georgia’s housing laws must be revised to allow Atlanta to move forward with this ordinance and help those with incomes below the poverty line find affordable housing.
Furthermore, HUD not paying some tenants’ rent vouchers could lead to more landlords becoming reluctant to accept applicants who rely on government assistance as it might mean they do not receive the total amount they are owed monthly.
The Money Wrap-Up
The Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, is a program used in the city of Atlanta and other parts of the country. Low-income people rely on this program to help them find the housing they need. However, because of the continued flaws within the program, such as them not paying the rent checks of the six tenants mentioned above, more landlords within Georgia may also begin refusing rent vouchers. If this happens, it could lead to an increase in homelessness.
Right now, a government body needs to step up and begin paying rent checks to landlords of those who have rent vouchers so they do not receive termination notices and end up on the streets.
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