Those who are living in Carrollton’s extended-stay motels may not know that their credit history is what is preventing them from finding a more stable living situation.
That’s one conclusion of a Community Foundation of West Georgia study of why so many residents have chosen that living arrangement. The study will be posted on the organization’s website on Tuesday in three documents, Foundation President Kim Jones said, including a summary of the survey, a report detailing the results and the survey responses.
“I’m anxious to get the public’s response,” she said. “In addition to those three pieces on the website, we’ll also be posting a way for residents to get signed up for updates and email communication. As we go through this process, anyone who wants to join us, we’ll be glad to share workgroups or anything that comes up.”
In recent months, Carrollton officials have been asked to do more about providing affordable housing for residents, especially those that Jones describes as “precariously housed.” Through the survey, she wants help from community leaders in transitioning them into a stable living situation.
There are several in the community whose financial status has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. But Jones said not everyone who was surveyed was staying at an extended-stay because of loss of jobs during the pandemic economy. Most have means, yet other circumstances cause them to choose an extended-stay motel over a more permanent living arrangement.
On Friday, Jones the research provided ideas on how to assist some of these residents, such as introducing a program that helps them discover and repair their credit history or providing transportation and workforce housing.
A good credit score can help when renting an apartment, getting a better insurance rate, or obtaining a lower interest rate on a home mortgage. Yet Jones found that some residents do not know how their credit rating affects them or what they can do about it.
“Low credit scores, people have no idea how to fix them,” she said. “It affects your insurance rates, your ability to rent an apartment, and most people aren’t aware of the domino effect of their habits.”
Jones said bad habits such as borrowing often and not repaying these loans can cause a negative cascade of events. She added that a healthy credit rating is a “huge gatekeeper” if they want to transition into permanent housing.
Jones said the 88-question survey was conducted door-to-door at five extended-stay hotels and motels across Carrollton in September. These included the Carroll Inn, the Crown Inn, the Efficiency Lodge, the Rodeway and the Royal Inn.
With the help of volunteers such as State Farm insurance agent Jill Duncan and Carrollton Ward 4 Councilman Bob Uglum, Jones was able to dive into what causes people to stay at these locations. They asked residents who were willing to participate a variety of questions, ranging from their criminal and credit history to their housing stability.
“We talked about everything from Section 8 to the scarcity of available housing,” Jones said in December. “One of the first questions that everybody always asks is, ‘How many homeless do we have?’ There’s no way to predict that. It changes every day.”
After presenting the results to the Community Foundation’s board this month, she said she is ready to bring community leaders in on the conversation. She added that some extended-stay residents may be living in one that is more expensive than a one-bedroom apartment.
The average rent for an extended stay is $1,100 to $1,200 a month, or up to $300 a week, she said. This is more than enough to rent a modest apartment in Carrollton, where the average rent for a two-bedroom is $834, according to Apartments.com.
She noted seven out of 10 of the survey responses also came from people who had been living in Carroll County prior to an extended stay. That means that these residents were not transplants from other counties. And nine out of 10 of those had been living in Carroll longer than five years.
“I think one thing that I was surprised about was 57% of the respondents said they had never been homeless before,” she said. “Another (question) asked if they had been evicted as an adult, and 75% said they had never been evicted. When we compared our results to the results from Norcross, we were almost identical. They had done their study in May 2019.”