Worse yet, taxpayers are unwittingly helping pay for these conditions through rent subsidies and tax incentives given to property owners. We are getting far, far less than we are paying for.
As our reporting pointed out, steeply rising rents have foreclosed decent housing options for many. In metro Atlanta, an unskilled worker would have to hold more than three full-time jobs at minimum wage to afford a market-rate, two-bedroom apartment. An annual income of $47,000 was needed in 2021 to afford the $1,185 monthly rent at such a place.
An affordable housing crunch is one thing; and Atlanta’s steady population growth has exacerbated the shortage of affordable units.
Outright neglect by apartment owners is another. And it should be unacceptable to anyone or any entity concerned with maintaining a bare-bones level of human decency toward the neediest among us – many of whom do work for a living at low-wage jobs that help hold up the services upon which broader society depends.
Which makes it all the more shocking that people are routinely living in raggedy apartment buildings, some of which have sustained serious fire, water or other structural damage. Broken plumbing can create public health issues from improperly handled sewage. Rodents and roaches endanger residents’ health as well.
The worst of these landlords don’t consistently provide even minimal security services, such as working gates -- let alone guards or functioning cameras. These shortcomings effectively present a “y’all come” sign for criminals. The high number of calls for police service to these places back up this point.
Negligent landlords should not be able to operate so comfortably. When they fail at – or even flout – the most basic of duties in providing minimally habitable, reasonably safe housing – it is up to government to step in.
That’s not happening nearly enough here. Bureaucratic inertia and Georgia’s weak tenant-protection laws have stumbled far short of providing timely, effective oversight and enforcement.
This dangerous status quo fails spectacularly at providing what the preamble to Georgia’s Constitution calls for, to “insure justice to all, preserve peace, promote the interest and happiness of the citizen and of the family.”
Those words and what our reporting has found should be a call for local, county and state agencies to assertively step up and do better by vulnerable Georgians.
The Editorial Board.