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'We could actually have nowhere to go': Rising Georgia rent costs putting affordable housing out of reach

According to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average income needed to afford a one-bedroom apartment in Georgia is more than $34,000

MACON, Ga. — Around the nation and right here in Central Georgia, rent is on the rise. 

First, renters may have a hard time finding an apartment that is available. Then, getting the application approved can be difficult, only to find a rent payment that seems impossible to maintain.

“I'm at the brink of having to let go of everything just to try and save up to get into a home," Xzandria Armstrong said about housing. 

Like thousands of Georgians, Xzandria Armstrong is doing the best she can to make ends meet. With rising rent, those ends don't quite connect. 

"What I'm coming in to is just, 'Zan, it doesn't look like you make three times the rent, even two times the rent if the rent is $850,'" she said. 

She could find a cheaper place, but Armstrong says she's not willing to sacrifice her children's safety.

"I don't want to just go to the worst neighborhood. I've gotten followed into my room, I've gotten harassed by maintenance men," she explained.  

In the past, Armstrong stayed in shelters and signed up for assistance. After 20 denials and with time running out on her current housing, she's feeling desperate. 

"I'm literally scared. I'm trying not to have these small panic attacks when I realize that we could actually have nowhere to go," Armstrong  said. 

Experts say you shouldn’t spend more 30% of your income on housing, but the average cost of rent in Central Georgia is just over $1,000. If you're making the average hourly wage of $15, that would be more than 40 percent of your pay.

“The increase in rent is about 30% of what I'm paying right now," Crystal Cox explained.  

Crystal Cox is a disabled veteran. Her rent started at $800, and now she could have to pay $1,495, all on a fixed income.

"I do get 90% disability. That covers my rent and my car note and that's about it," Cox explained.  

Since 2019, the US Census shows rent has risen by more than 26%, making affordable housing impossible for some. 

"Someone who might have just been able to have enough for rent, having to now pay that significant increase in rent is something that they now just can’t do," attorney Shannon Mills said.

Shannon Mills is a supervising attorney with Georgia Legal Services Program and says there are resources for struggling tenants, but few are long-term.

"Unfortunately, the best route to go is to try and get a voucher, a Section 8  housing choice voucher," Mills explained.

Not everyone qualifies for Section 8 -- it’s based on specific income requirements.

Armstrong and Cox hope that lawmakers can make some changes.

"I ask that you do better, and I ask that you consider those of us that you call 'low-income,'" Armstrong said.  

According to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the average income needed to afford just a one-bedroom apartment in Georgia is more than $34,000. Mills also says there are programs with the Georgia Rental Assistance Program, Macon EOC, and the Salvation Army.

For more information on rental assistance, you can visit these resources:

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