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Resource ID: #30141
Subject: Housing
Source: Alan Judd, Willoughby Mariano, Johnny Edwards, Jennifer Peebles, Eric Fan, Lois Norder
Affiliation: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Date: 2022-06-09



The Atlanta Journal-Constitution identified more than 270 persistently dangerous apartment complexes in metropolitan Atlanta, places where chronic violence and disrepair trap tens of thousands of residents in deplorable living conditions. These properties, many of which have been supported by tax breaks and government funds, place an extraordinary strain on communities and public agencies. Combined, they account for at least 281 homicides and 20,000 serious crimes over the past five years.

The complexes are overwhelmingly occupied by people of color; 97% of the properties identified by the Journal-Constitution lie in census tracts with a majority non-white population.

Georgia’s lack of tenant protections and basic condition standards allow these complexes to flourish, attracting a class of predatory owners who are eager to profit off of metro Atlanta’s affordable housing crisis. In this business model, investors buy dilapidated apartments, raise rents, flip them for millions in gains, and leave residents to live amidst mold, sewage backups, gunfire, repeat apartment fires or other hazards. Nearly three-fourths of the area’s persistently dangerous complexes are owned by private equity or other out-of-state investors.

Detailed reporting across dozens of jurisdictions exposed how owners can easily outmatch and overwhelm government regulators and code enforcement officers. Violating a housing code is typically no more serious than getting a speeding ticket, with penalties capped at $1,000 per citation. Owners buy time by dodging process servers, dragging out court hearings, breaking promises and paying fines until they flip the complex to the next owner.

2022 IRE Award Winner, Print/Online (written word) > Division 3

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