Atlanta Housing Authority: Sandy Springs Apartment Problem Not Fault of Voucher Recipients

Rick White, a spokesperson for the Atlanta Housing Authority, contacted Patch regarding a statement by Mayor Eva Galambos on apartment residents who moved to Sandy Springs from Atlanta after receiving Section 8 vouchers. The Mayor had responded to a commenter at a recent meeting.

White said: "It’s important that your readers understand that 12 Sandy Springs families (zip codes 30328, 30350, and 30358) receive rental assistance from the Atlanta Housing Authority. I am not familiar with the issues confronting the citizens of Sandy Springs; however, I think we can agree that these challenges cannot be appropriately placed at the feet of these 12 Sandy Springs families, who are anonymously abiding by their lease, the program rules, and community standards.

As it’s my belief that Mayor Galambos’ statement was simply a misunderstanding of the facts…"

originally ran March 1.

While apartments are said to be doing well in the current economy compared to metro Atlanta’s falling home prices, they continue to draw a negative perception in Sandy Springs.

The perception is Sandy Springs apartments, particularly along Roswell Road are old, crime-ridden and often filled with too many people living in one unit.

"We know our crime is concentrated in certain areas where we have some of our worst apartments," said Mayor Eva Galambos, during a talk to the High Point Civic Association, on Tuesday. "That’s why I am so anxious to find developers to come in and raze some of these apartments."

The Mayor’s new Economic Advisory Committee has learned that apartment owners have no interest in selling. The poor housing market has been a owners who have experienced increased occupancy rates.

Chris Burnett, president of Cornerstone Bank and a member of the Economic Advisory Committee told Patch, "The economics of apartments are better today than they have been in years. For someone doing well on their investments getting them to sell or redevelop is tough to do."

He continued, "In many cases those older apartments are depreciated down to zero. So if someone sells, they are going to have a huge tax liability. And the question is if they took that cash what would they invest in. Interest rates on investments are not very good right now."

, this year, focused on code enforcement in apartment communities. Nearly 36 percent of emergency calls for service come from apartments, police said.

In the initiative, a specific group of officers will study and define problems in apartment communities. They will identify code enforcement violations, that might include lights; fire hazards such as grills on balconies and occupancy.

Some local homeowners believe that most apartment residents are transplants from City of Atlanta housing projects, who received Section 8 housing vouchers enabling them to live in suburban cities like Sandy Springs.

"The vouchers were given out either by the Atlanta Housing Authority or Fulton Housing Authority [and] are tickets these people can use to go anywhere," said Galambos to a commenter on Tuesday. "This is federal legislation. We have no control over it."

How do you feel about the apartment communities along Roswell Road? Tell us in the comments below.

There are 78 apartment complexes in Sandy Springs. More than 20 developments were built in the 1960s and ’70s. Developers have told Patch that many are just outdated made of wood, low-rise ceilings and structures.

If they are ever torn down, the Mayor told residents she expects to see higher density.

"I’m willing to take the higher densities in terms of getting better apartments and a better clientele in those apartments," she said.

Some apartment units may be overcrowded out of necessity. Many apartment residents in Sandy Springs and the metro Atlanta area have felt the sting of the economy and moved out of their homes. Others include spouses working locally and living in an apartment to make ends meet for the family, while their husband or wife is employed in another city. And then there are some folks who have decided owning a home is no longer a part of their American dream.

During an appearance on "Real Time With Bill Maher" in February, Suze Orman said.

"We now have an America that doesn’t even think that they want to own a home anymore. They are praying that somebody will just take it off of their hands so they could rent."

She continued, "So it’s not the haves and the soon-to-be haves. American just wants to say, ‘Can I have a roof over my head? Can I have money to feed my kids?’ For the majority of them, their spirits been broken because nobody is there listening to them."

Sabrina Purnell, a community manager for , which manages The Pointe at Canyon Ridge on Roswell Road and Parc at Perimeter on Peachtree Dunwoody Road said there a lot of benefits to living in apartments today.

"People don’t have to worry about homeowner association fees, paying taxes or maintenance calls. There are a lot of people who just don’t want the headaches," she said.

Higher end apartments have been zoned on Hammond Drive and the Mayor is thinking condominiums.

"The hope is they will be turned into condos and are being built to condo standards," she said. "So we think that is very encouraging."

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