This is an editorial by Jo Smith, Member of Port Wentworth City Council. The opinions expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of his fellow council or city members.

I have a problem with a bill pending in the Georgia Senate. SB 494 would prohibit certain zoning restrictions on residential dwellings and legally override local zoning laws, as state law always does.

It will tie the hands of city councils and county commissions across Georgia.

Learn more about the housing rush: Housing costs rise as tenants and landlords jostle

According to SB 494, city councils cannot prohibit huge housing estates that will be 100% rental. The Municipal Association of Georgia, which represents nearly every city in Georgia, says, “Senate Bill 494 seeks to allow unrestricted access for businesses to develop ‘build-to-let’ subdivisions that vary widely in terms of price, quality, management and protection of tenants.

I am for balance first and foremost. Tenants can make good neighbors, but not always. It takes balance.

So much for “local control” which will be entirely out the window. We who live in our city know what is best for our city, not the State Senate.

We will no longer be able to limit rentals to a certain percentage of a neighborhood. In fact, entire towns could be transformed into “rental towns” within a few years.

Have you ever lived in a rental home? I have. I also owned my own homes. My city has wonderful HOA neighborhoods and our price range makes it easy for a middle class family to shop here.

However, there are a lot of tenants, and that’s fine too. Renters are a mixed bag (take this from someone who lived in a rental apartment where people threw trash on the floor, didn’t pick up their dog poop, and barely recognized each other, because they were leaving soon).

Personal experience and common sense tell me that this law will degrade our quality of life. It’s a well-known fact that if people don’t have “pride of ownership” they won’t take as much care of their homes and common areas because of what’s called “diffusion responsibilities” – the dependence on someone else to take care of things.

Also, unless you have a great relationship with your landlord, cosmetic repairs tend to be put off for significant periods of time, degrading the look of a neighborhood. What should a tenant do? Perpetually pursue their owner?

Learn more about the effects of rental housing:Short-term vacation rentals ’empty’ historic neighborhoods while driving up costs

Don’t just take my word for it, here’s a quote from a study conducted by Harvard University: “Strong and consistent evidence indicates that homeowners are more likely to: a) be satisfied with their home and their neighborhood; b) participate in voluntary and political activities; and c) staying in their homes longer, contributing to neighborhood stability.

It’s also going to become incredibly difficult for our school systems in this state. Tenants change much more often than landlords. Ask any teacher or school principal, a dramatic increase in transitional rates negatively affects school performance.

I know people don’t always have the down payment for a home. However, I am very concerned about the trend in real estate toward widespread corporate buyouts and “100% single-family rental neighborhoods.” This voracious appetite (often from out-of-state developers) takes housing stock off the market and drives up costs accordingly. A house is the best way for a family to build up a generational heritage.

Jo Smith is an At-Large Board Member for Port Wentworth, GA.

If you feel the same as me, help me fight SB 494. Call your Georgia State Senator and tell them you oppose this bill and instead support local zoning control .

Senator Lester Jackson:

Office (404) 463-5261

[email protected]

Senator Billy Hickman:

Office (404) 463-1371

[email protected]

Senator Ben Watson:

Office (404) 656-7880

[email protected]

If you don’t know who your senator is, you can look it up on the Secretary of State’s website: www.mvp.sos.ga.gov/MVP/mvp.do