Skip to Content

Kicked out: Georgia families say they are not wanted

By CIARA CUMMINGS

Click here for updates on this story

    ATLANTA (WGCL) — Tenants say they are being kicked out of their apartments not because they aren’t paying rent, but instead how they pay rent. A CBS46 investigation found “source of income discrimination” is widespread, just as the metro’s housing market explodes.

“Poor people are being pushed out of Cobb.”

That’s how Susan Mealer describes the past year facing housing insecurity. Everything Mealer loved had to be packed into the boxes which sat behind her, including her late husband.

“So disrespectful, you know, that I had to put him in a box and pack him away like he was nothing,” she explained.

“The urn does not only hold his ashes but Mealer’s hope, or at least what remains of it after Azure at Riverside apartments posted a letter last year on her door.

“Basically if you have the section 8 voucher, ‘we don’t want it,'” she recalled.

CBS46 obtained a copy of the letter which was a 60 day notice to leave. The grandmother says she regularly paid roughly $700 rent.

And the letter suggests she didn’t get the boot because of a lack of payment, instead because of the type of payment.

Ultimately, Mealer faced homelessness — shuffling from hotels and friend’s homes.

“It really does feel illegal because too many people are going through this that are losing their home. If you don’t have a place to stay, then you’re losing your job, your car. Some people are even losing their mind.”

The landlord, according to the letter, no longer wants section 8 tenants.

It reads in part, “we are not participating in the renewal of any MHA lease,’ also know as Marietta Housing Authority leases, the local division of the federal housing choice voucher program, or section 8.

About 10 minutes away from Mealer, another mom with a similar struggle, Cynthia Johnson.

“It’s not getting better, it’s getting worse,” she claimed.

Johnson relies on section 8 too but after 65 calls, she could not find an area apartment, for a similar rent rate, in safe conditions, willing to accept it.

“I was on the verge of having a stroke. And I’ve never had to experience this in my life.”

In the U.S., low income families can seek assistance from the government to help pay rent by applying to the housing choice voucher program (section 8). If approved, the the government pays for part or all of the tenants rent.

In cities like Marietta, signing up from the program can be difficult itself — Marietta Housing Authority currently has a wait-list to sign up.

But, what good is the program if landlords refuse to accept the vouchers or what good is the program if there’s no penalty for landlords refusing it, advocates ask.

CBS46 found Mealer and Johnson’s stories are no mere coincidence. It’s a part of a pattern we uncovered in Marietta.

We went undercover, making calls and showing up, in search for renting a unit. When we asked about moving forward with the tenant application using section 8 — 17 of the 18 times, we were turned away.

The one time we were not turned away, the office manager described reluctance to rent to section 8 voucher recipients because of red tape, like required site visits or inspections that come with receiving a federal subsidy.

Turning away tenants because of how they want to pay for rent, it’s a legal form of discrimination in cities without specific legislation says Georgia State University Law Professor Courtney Anderson.

“Source of income discrimination is a really big issue.”

Anderson cites it as common partly due to stigmas associated with section 8 tenants.

“If you want to kind of market your property in a certain way, you might not want to be seen as an affordable housing property.” Adding, “an ongoing bias about stigmatizing. It really complicates the safety net that’s put in place to protect everyone in society.”

Being kicked out like Mealer and being turned away like Johnson, it would be considered illegal in the city of Atlanta.

The city of Atlanta is one of the only metro local governments to have housing legislation against source of income discrimination.

A law Marietta tenants have repeatedly begged for in Cobb County for the past year– sending emails explaining their worries and showing up to commission meetings. They expected their voiced concerns would be loud but they feel the county’s lack of action spoke much louder.

“Imagine one day someone knocks on your door and puts you and your kids outside for no fault of your own? You have no where to go,” said Johnson.

Since our investigation, Johnson and Mealer have gotten help with housing– more than 6 months after their facing housing crises.

CBS46 called and left voicemails with Azure at Riverside apartments to comment on non-renewals of section 8 leases, we have not heard back. CBS46 also reached out to Cobb County Commission, Jerica Richardson was the only one who agreed to interview about our findings in Marietta.

“I think you share something that should certainly be looked at, it’s concerning.” Richardson paused, “one of the things I’m interested in looking at is kind of resident bill of rights or tenants bill of rights to a certain degree.

“To identify where there’s real opportunity to make some statement but a statement but a statement that’s enforceable.”

Please note: This content carries a strict local market embargo. If you share the same market as the contributor of this article, you may not use it on any platform.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Regional

Jump to comments ↓

CNN Newsource

BE PART OF THE CONVERSATION

KIFI Local News 8 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content