The city of Sandy Springs is charging $500 monthly rent for a three-bedroom house on Hammond Drive in its first experiment in providing affordable housing to public safety employees.
Preparing the 521 Hammond Drive house for rental to a Sandy Springs Police officer cost the city about $12,000 in its debut role as a landlord, according to leasing and management documents. The officer, who drives a marked patrol car home, has been renting the house since Jan. 8.
The house is one of several properties the city recently purchased as placeholders for a possible widening of Hammond years from now. Faced with the question of what to do with the properties in the meantime, City Council last year proposed renting some of the houses at affordable rates to police officers or firefighters.
The city has a policy of attempting to preserve and create “workforce,” or middle-income, housing as real estate prices skyrocket. Many public safety employees earn middle-income salaries, which are often not enough to buy or rent a place to live in Sandy Springs. Mayor Rusty Paul has said it is “immoral” for public safety workers to be priced out of the community they protect.
The council informally agreed that if any Hammond houses it purchases cost less to repair than to demolish, those houses would be rented to public safety officers. Various councilmembers proposed widely varying “affordable” rental rates, from $500 to $1,500 a month. City Manager John McDonough chose $500 as the amount to move forward with.
The 521 Hammond house is the only one so far to be deemed worth renovating and renting, according to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun. According to Fulton County property records, the house, built in 1958, has 1,327 square feet of floor space and sits on a half-acre of lawn and trees.
The $500 rent, which does not include utilities, is a major bargain. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in the Sandy Springs area for the week of April 10 was about $1,110 a month, according to the rent-tracking website Adobo.com, and the average three-bedroom rate was about $1,675.
When Fulton County and a private developer opened a renovated public housing building for “very” and “extremely” low-income seniors on Allen Road in 2015, its two-bedroom rental rate was capped at $680.
At 521 Hammond, the city spent $9,900 on repairs and $1,353 to install a fence. It’s also paying $65 a month to Mega Agent Rental Management Georgia, a Marietta firm, to manage the property and collect the rent.
In becoming a landlord, city officials had several concerns about potential liabilities and abuses that have been issues in other cities with similar programs. The lease terms address some, but not all, of those concerns.
The lease essentially lasts as long as the police officer works for the city, or until the city wants to do something else with the house. The lease can be ended by the city with 60 days’ notice or automatically ends within 60 days of the police officer leaving city employment. The officer can end the lease with 30 days’ notice. The city can also evict the officer for various “defaults,” which include declaring bankruptcy or being the subject of any criminal charges that aren’t dismissed within a month.
The lease also bans pets and subletting.
The cost of affordable police housing
Repairs and utility switch-on fees: $11,415.73
Property management: $565 for repair fund deposit and first month’s fee; $65 a month thereafter
Insurance: $383 for one year of coverage, added to city’s existing policy