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Business EVENTS

June 15 - Stronger Together: Savannah Organizations Align to Tackle the City’s Affordable Housing Crisis

Category: Business Events

Savannah Business Journal Staff Report

June 15, 2018 - On June 20, 2018, Georgia Legal Services Program is spearheading an event, “Dispossessed: The Impacts of Eviction” to bring local organizations together to start a dialogue about the Savannah’s lack of housing affordability and the related issue of eviction. The event — which will be held in Savannah Technical College’s Eckburg Auditorium from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. — will feature speakers from several Savannah organizations, including: Family Promise Savannah, the City of Savannah, Chatham-Savannah Authority for the Homeless, Savannah Law School, and Park Place Outreach.

Before the housing market collapsed in 2008, the City of Savannah commissioned a report to find out more about the lack of affordable housing in the area. Affordable housing, by definition, should account for maximum 30 percent of an individual’s income. In the final report, the University of Georgia found that many residents in Savannah simply did not make enough money to attain housing that was in any way “affordable.” Martin Fretty, City of Savannah’s Director of Housing and Neighborhood Services, said a single-parent, minimum-wage earner would have to work two to three full-time jobs to afford quality housing. “Obviously, if you do the math, that doesn’t add up,” he said.

In 2018, barriers to affordable and stable housing still impact almost every facet of Savannah life, including government policies, residents, families, service providers, education, crime rates, and homelessness. According to Julie Wade, Executive Director of Park Place Outreach, an emergency shelter for the Savannah’s at-risk youth, the lack of affordable housing and “negative cycle of eviction contribute to homelessness, high school dropout rates, [a] lack of stability, drug use, and criminal engagement.”

GLSP’s “Dispossessed” event will closely examine the role of Savannah’s affordable housing crisis in eviction cases. Marc Roark, a professor at Savannah Law School who specializes in Real Property Law, said Georgia’s landlord-friendly laws contribute to the state’s high eviction rates, and that “evictions in Savannah are one of the leading causes of the lack of affordable housing.” Roark gave an example of how, in practice, existing laws offer little protection to tenants: If a landlord does not maintain the property they rent, tenants often have no recourse. “They do not have the right to withhold rent,” he said. If they do, they will be evicted.

Members of the organizations who are gathering for this event specialize in several areas touched by eviction and unaffordable housing, so guests will receive a more holistic perspective about how these issues impact children, families, homeless populations, crime, and policy. It seems that no one organization can tackle housing affordability and eviction issues in their entirety. The time for change is now, and, perhaps, we are stronger together.

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