Marietta is asking the voters to OK a $35 million bond issue to clean up Franklin Road and streetscape Whitlock. I’ll leave the subject of streetscaping for another time. For now, I am proposing alternatives for cleaning up Franklin.
Franklin is the result of the life cycle of neglected rental properties. As apartment properties age, owners may decide to modernize and reinvest to keep the property attractive so as to compete for tenants at rates sufficient to produce a return on the investment required. Or, an owner can keep reinvestment to a minimum and compete for tenants on the basis of rental rates. In the latter, the property inevitably declines to the point that tenants are likely to be limited to those who are seeking housing at the lowest possible cost. This is the poverty level. Poverty is related to unemployment, drugs, alcohol, prostitution and crime.
Franklin Road is not the first to decline this way and will not be the last. Unincorporated Cobb has many aging apartment complexes. Some have been modernized and compete for premium rents. Others decline. Local governments cannot buy out every failing rental property.
I would propose that the city and/or county require licensing of owners of these apartment properties. Owners of multiple properties would be licensed separately for each property they own. The local governments will not direct operating methods of the owners but will require at a minimum that owners utilize screening of residents and applicants as well as reasonable security measures to maintain security of residents and their property. The licensed operator of rental housing would be expected to prevent his property from becoming a blight on the community.
If crime, police and fire department intervention other demands on public services and/or burdens on the school district (truancy, turnover, etc.) should exceed the rates of the city and/or county at large, the city or county would intervene and audit the management of the property. The audit would determine if the owner has failed to adequately screen applicants or has failed to adequately secure the property.
Management failure by the owner leads to sanctions. Suspended license for 30 days with no promotions, no new rentals, and no renewals. Second failure, perhaps a longer suspension. If improvement is not achieved, permanent loss of license to operate the property as rental housing. All leases terminate with no more rentals. Incapable operators will be driven out of the business and out of the community.
Yes, there are lots of gaps to fill in. My purpose is to stimulate some fresh thoughts to control a problem that is likely to grow over time.