Federal investigation launched into Georgia’s unsafe renting conditions

Atlanta has had its fair share of issues over Project-Based Rental Assistance.
Published: Oct. 6, 2023 at 7:35 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Sen. Jon Ossoff is launching an investigation into Georgia’s dangerous rental conditions in public housing, just two days after launching an identical investigation that will seek answers on the same issue throughout the country.

Atlanta has had its fair share of issues over Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Ossoff’s announcement came the very same day former residents of the dilapidated Forest Cove housing complex filed a lawsuit against the property management company that owns it.

“Reports raise serious concerns that some PBRA-funded property owners, which receive millions in taxpayer dollars every year, have neglected maintenance, property rehabilitation, and security,” said Ossoff. “Their actions call into question HUD’s abilities to protect tenants and to hold owners accountable.”

While Ossoff’s investigation will enlist the help of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, some local housing advocates put just as much blame on that department as they do on landlords responsible for units with black mold, sewage leaks and unclean air quality.

“HUD simply doesn’t enforce their own rules and that is egregious,” said Tim Franzen with the Housing Justice League. “HUD is deeply implicated in the failure of our community to provide safe and affordable housing to folks that truly need it.”

Franzen said HUD has a good set of guidelines that would make for safe and reliable public housing — if they followed them. But instead, he says they ignore tenant complaints and fail to hold landlords accountable for failing inspections.

“When landlords know that they can not follow rules and get away with it, some of them are going to take advantage of that,” he said.

Franzen said eight people died last year alone due to causes attributed to unsafe rental conditions at properties owned by Millenia Property Management, the group that owns Forest Cove and the same company that was named in the lawsuit filed by former tenants Friday.

“It’s a bold statement, but I think it needs to be said that HUD does have blood on their hands,” said Franzen. “To put (renters) in an environment where they don’t have clean air in the house, or they have toxic mold, or they have gas leaks, and when they report these things, they’re not being taken care of, and when HUD gets involved, HUD is not taking the action that they should be.”

Franzen also put pressure on state lawmakers who tried but failed to pass legislation last year that would have provided more power to renters.

“Year after year, the Gold Dome has not made working people a priority and this is the consequence of that,” he said. “The priority is making sure that landlords are okay, that they’re getting their checks regardless of whether they’re doing their jobs or not.”