COVID-19 Impact: Struggles Continue For Georgia Renters, In Atlanta Housing Sector


In Georgia, nearly a quarter of all renters didn’t make last month’s rent payment, the fourth highest in the nation. Many more are afraid they won’t be able to pay for housing next month, according to the online loan portal Lending Tree, which analyzed U.S. Census Bureau Household data.

This bleak picture comes as a federal moratorium on evictions is set to expire on Dec. 31.

WABE’s “All Things Considered” host Jim Burress spoke with Lending Tree’s chief economist, Tendayi Kapfidze, and asked him to put into perspective how serious of a condition Georgia renters find themselves in.

“If we make some assumptions around the average rent in Georgia, it comes out that renters are behind on about $388 million of rent, since the start of the coronavirus crisis,” Kapfidze said.

He said we were not close to this staggering amount of debt at the start of this year. Now, with the number of coronavirus cases on the uptick in Georgia, combined with the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, Kapfidze predicts renters and landlords will feel more of a sting this winter.

He also said the age group with the highest amount of rental debt is Georgians between the ages of 40 and 54.

“People who have children, they’ve got a lot of other expenses. They may be taking care of a parent as well,” Kapfidze said.

“A lot of people, even in the 25-to-39 age group, are living with their parents and may not be directly responsible for a rental payment.”

From the Atlanta perspective, Burress checked in with Eugene Jones, the new CEO of the Atlanta Housing Authority.

Jones had good things to say about his first year, and about Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ commitment to affordable housing. Yet, he also admitted he’s as worried now as he’s ever been in his decadeslong career.

COVID-19 is a game changer for Atlantans already struggling with finding affordable housing.

Jones said it could lead to unthinkable strains on the housing sector, and without more resources appropriated from Congress, things are looking kind of glim.

“Glim looks like there might be more homelessness, people can’t make their mortgages, there’s still no jobs, people are not healthy anymore, they don’t have access to health care,” Jones said.

“We have access to some resources that HUD provides to us, resources from the city, and we’re going to try to do our best by trying to house people, trying to find them shelter. Find them somewhere where they can have a quality of life they have not experienced before.”

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