New regulations could appear in the new year that limit how homeowners can rent their properties. It’s tied to the rapid disappearance of lower-priced housing in much of Atlanta – leading to squalid conditions in new-age boardinghouses in Atlanta's quiet suburbs.
On Chestnut Drive in Doraville – a street filled with single family homes – inspectors found that one of them had essentially become an apartment building.
"In Georgia you can’t regulate single family rental homes," said Doraville city councilman Joseph Geierman, who says it's a widespread problem in his city.
Though the homes are built for single families – many of them with charming late 50s floorplans – residents say some of their owners are renting them to multiple families paying multiple rents
"Some of them are three-bedroom two-bath, and you’ve got over 10, 15 people living in them," said Jeff Jenkins, who lives around the corner from the Chestnut Drive home.
"They rent it out to three or four or five families, and they’re not built to hold that," said Jenkins' partner, Terry Greenberg.
In the green-and-pink Chestunt Drive house, councilman Geierman says the city recently found temporary plywood walls built in to accommodate numerous residents paying separate rents, "jamming as many people as possible into this house," he said.
Like much of metro Atlanta inside the perimeter, property values here have increased over the last decade. DeKalb County records show the property’s taxes – which often change based on valuation – at $1443 in 2011. By 2018, they’d jumped to $2598. That’s an 80 percent increase – rapidly pushing areas like this out of reach for people of modest incomes.
"Metro Atlanta has a problem with affordable housing," Geierman said. "It’s making (unscrupulous) landlords think there’s an opportunity to profit from that."
Inside the pink-and-green house, we saw the temporary walls were gone – but their imprints were still visible on the carpet.
"We’ve got multiple houses on each block taking part in this," Jenkins said.
Greenberg said police and code inspectors are limited on what they can do about it.
"They can’t just walk up and knock on the door and say, 'how many people are in here? We’re coming inside to see'," he said.
Georgia lawmakers have talked about taking steps to rein in emerging housing rental platforms like Airbnb. Geierman thinks those efforts could also include regulations to curb boardinghouses.
"There has to be something we can do as a city, as a state, because it’s not just here in Doraville," Jenkins said.