On Sept. 16, United Athens County Tenants sent a questionnaire to all five candidates vying for the three at-large seats on Athens City Council. Candidates were asked to provide information about their housing priorities and their stances on certain key housing policies, with a deadline of Sept. 30.
As of Oct. 10, four of the five candidates have responded to the questionnaire. Sarah Grace, current city council member and chair of council’s Affordable Housing Commission, did not provide a response.
When asked about the most pressing housing issues facing tenants, all four candidates discussed lack of affordability within Athens. Ben Ziff and McCarey both noted concerns with landlords and maintenance staff entering units without providing at least 24 hours advance notice.
The candidates also cited concerns about the conditions within rentals, with Micah McCarey calling for “increased efficacy of City Code Enforcement regarding inspections.”
All four candidates expressed that they would support adding a Pay to Stay ordinance to City Code. A Pay to Stay ordinance prevents a landlord from proceeding with eviction for nonpayment of rent if a tenant presents the full rent due plus late fees by the time of the eviction hearing. Damon Krane wrote that he “unequivocally” supports Pay to Stay legislation, and Ziff wrote that he feels that this issue is “cut and dry.”
Both Iris Virjee and McCarey expressed that they would like to gather more information but are currently in support of Pay to Stay.
Similarly, all four candidates stated that they would support a Just Cause Eviction ordinance, which would limit the grounds upon which a landlord could evict a tenant. Typically, allowable grounds for eviction include nonpayment of rent, intentional damage to the unit or other material noncompliance with the terms of the lease. Virjee emphasized in her response that an ordinance would need to be carefully written to avoid “unfair enforcement” and to ensure that tenants are able to access this protection.
All four candidates also support a policy where landlords must pay relocation expenses for tenants forced to leave units condemned by the Code Enforcement office.
Krane would push for an even farther reaching reform, stating, “We should require landlords to pay the costs of relocating tenants to safe, code-compliant alternative housing for whatever time it takes to correct any violations of our city housing code.”
Full candidate responses can be found at athenstenants.com/communityoutreach.