One of our members describes an ongoing scenario where a resident stopped paying rent in November 2021. The same resident has another individual in their home, who was considered a serious threat to the community, wielding a gun and harassing the home staff. But the resident and his guest stay, because the owner’s repeated requests for an accelerated eviction have been unsuccessful for months.
Our members are also at the mercy of the police protocols. Due to a lack of adequate staff in local police departments, members have reported that calls can take police up to two hours to respond.
So what are we doing to make shared flats safer? Our industry has largely adopted CEPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) standards when building or renovating community communities. These are guiding principles for shaping communities in a way that promotes safety and reduces opportunities for criminal activity. Examples include guarded parking lots with increased lighting, ensuring landscaping does not obscure views or create hiding places, and implementing lighting and surveillance systems that enhance search, patrol and pursuit by police.
Our members also maintain a high occupancy rate of courtesy officers or public safety officers living in shared apartments at a discounted rent in exchange for performing basic security services. Just last month, the Atlanta Apartment Association, in partnership with the Atlanta Police Foundation, hosted a program with participants representing more than 100 different Atlanta communities to discuss crime prevention strategies. This included discussions on how to develop closer relationships with police zone commanders, conduct crime prevention assessments, install security cameras and screen residents.
We also work with members of the Atlanta City Council and the Office of Mayor Andre Dickens to improve and advance community policing efforts. The partnership includes the city’s financial support for public safety officers to make housing more accessible in each of Atlanta’s six police zones. The Atlanta Police Foundation will administer the program to supplement officers’ incomes as needed, while our association encourages participation across the city and addresses any fair housing or financial concerns related to adjusting income qualification requirements to ensure that officials have access to the desired accommodations.
We’ve also stepped in to help residents displaced by the closure of Forest Cove, a neglected housing development in southeast Atlanta that was recently convicted, as referenced in the AJC series. With financial support from the Mayor’s Office, our members have so far provided almost all of the 200 requested housing units for families moving out of Forest Cove. We won’t stop until all 200 families are taken care of.
Unfortunately, while maintaining an excellent quality of life and employing safety measures is the industry standard, there are some bad actors – as portrayed by the AJC – that need to be held accountable. More emphasis needs to be placed on encouraging local governments to use their resources to adequately enforce the laws already in place to protect the health and safety of residents. Georgian law empowers cities and counties to require the repair, closure or demolition of rental properties deemed unsuitable and grants full authority to adopt and enforce local habitability standards. Georgian law clearly states that owners of real estate are liable for failure to repair. To avoid situations like those depicted in this latest series, local governments must do their part and enforce these laws.
In addition, removing restrictions and providing financial resources for the construction and maintenance of new affordable housing must be top priorities at all levels of government to improve housing opportunities for low-income people.
Our association and our members take the safety of our residents seriously. They are the lifeblood of our company and deserve to live in quality homes where they are not threatened by crime every time they come home.
Jim Fowler is President of the Atlanta Apartment Association, which represents over 1,200 member companies, including 340 companies managing more than 400,000 residential units and over 800 companies providing products and services to the industry.