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Sean Keenan

Few U.S. states have rent control. Could Georgia make it legal again?

Sean Keenan
The Atlanta City Council chambers are crowded with affordable housing advocates.

By Sean Keenan

Late last month, the Atlanta City Council elected to send a letter to the Georgia Legislature urging state lawmakers to repeal a decades-old ban on rent control laws.

Today, only California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Oregon are the only states that have rent control laws. But now it’s up to state officials to determine if Georgia, which banned such restrictions in 1984, could become part of that small club.

It’s no secret that the cost of living is on the rise in Atlanta, and the affordable housing stock in town is dwindling fast.

So, Atlanta City Councilman Antonio Brown hopes he can enlist Georgia policymakers to draft — and, ideally, pass — legislation that would amend the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which currently says, “No county or municipal corporation may enact, maintain, or enforce any ordinance or resolution which would regulate in any way the amount of rent to be charged for privately owned, single-family or multiple-unit residential rental property.”

Accomplishing that, though, is easier said than done, especially with a Legislature that historically has not kept housing affordability issues in the spotlight.

Even if it turns out repealing the rent control ban is too tough a pill to swallow this legislative session, it’s an important conversation to have, state Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, told SaportaReport in a survey about affordable housing policy sent to Georgia lawmakers.

“Whether this change happens or not, the exchange between local and state officials is the type of exchange that needs to happen for the state to address local needs,” he wrote.

Rent control wouldn’t be the silver bullet for Atlanta’s affordable housing crisis, but it could help curb some of the displacement perpetuated by rising rent prices in town, Brown has said.

Although the plan isn’t a sure thing, Georgia State University urban studies professor Dan Immergluck told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that some landlords could be inclined to convert apartment rentals into high-priced condos if laws are enacted to cap rents.

Such a change, though, could spur a crackdown on “abusive landlords” who spike rent as high as they like, he added.

Brown told SaportaReport this week that his proposal has garnered interest from state Sens. Nikema Williams and Brandon Beach, as well as state Rep. David Dreyer.

Those three lawmakers have not yet responded to inquiries regarding whether rent control-related legislation could come down the pike, and this story will be updated when we hear back.

State Rep. Park Cannon, D-Atlanta, told SaportaReport in an email that she’s researching how rent control laws could work in Georgia.

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