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Flowery Branch City Council passes resolution on build-to-lease subdivision bill
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Flowery Branch City Hall - photo by Scott Rogers

Flowery Branch wants to prevent private investors from buying up residential subdivisions to rent them later, but it fears that proposed state legislation could threaten their authority. 

Flowery Branch City Council voted Thursday, March 3, to pass a resolution opposing HB 1093 and SB 494, bills in the House and Senate which would prohibit local governments from restricting the amount of rentals allowed in subdivisions.

"I don't think there's any question about how it will limit us in what we're trying to do," Mayor Ed Asbridge.

Forsyth County’s Board of Commissioners passed a similar resolution last week, and other local governments in the metro-Atlanta area have spoken out about “build-to-lease” subdivisions as well. 

“It’s not just our city, it’s any city,” Mayor Ed Asbridge said. “We would like to control the amount of rentals that’s in a neighborhood. Most people feel threatened by having a lot of rentals, and overall it can drive down the value of the houses, and that’s how they feel.” 

Part of the fear is that large private firms could buy up homes in a planned subdivision to rent or lease them rather than selling them to new homeowners, limiting the supply of homes for sale. 

The resolution states, “The City opposes the Bills for a number of reasons, including the fact that the Georgia Constitution recognizes zoning and land use decisions are core functions of local governments, and housing is a large component of those decisions. … To ensure vibrant and sustainable communities, local governments require flexibility to decide what is appropriate for their community’s neighborhoods.”

The city was recently burned by an investor buying a 200-unit subdivision planned off of McEver Road that the city passed in 2019, Asbridge said. Once developed, the subdivision will be full of homes available for rent, rather than sold to potential homebuyers, he said. 

“That was a surprise to us,” he said. “We didn’t realize it when it passed that the intentions were to do that.”

The bills are still being discussed in committees in both the House and Senate. The city’s resolution, if passed, would be sent to state legislators representing Flowery Branch to formally state its opposition.  

Rep. Emory Dunahoo, R-Gillsville, who represents Flowery Branch and much of South Hall, said the bills would likely be adjusted before a final vote, and he would not be in favor of the current structure. 

“These are groups of people who are continually investing,” Dunahoo said. “It looks like the goal is to create neighborhoods where you can build homes… and you can lease them out like an apartment situation but instead of apartments or townhomes you’re building homes.”

Part of the reason the legislation has come up, Dunahoo said, is because of a tug-of-war between local government and property owners. 

“Local government needs to have control of certain things, and that’s why we elect them there,” Dunahoo said. “(Investors are) trying a concept that is another way of making money, and I have no problem with people making money, but there are proper vetting processes … and this is one (where) we need to make sure we do things the right way.”