Keith Jones lives in Lithia Springs, a bedroom community about 15 miles from downtown Atlanta. His subdivison, The Meadows, was purchased by a Shell LLC, SPMK XII, set up by Sean Hannity in 2012 to buy up distressed properties as the U.S. economy struggled, against his radio badmouthing and every effort the Republicans in Congress could legislatively muster, to come back from the destruction the last Republican administration had wreaked upon it.
In the years since he took the rentals over Hannity has made some improvements but raised their rent a devastating 50+ percentage points, from about $650 to $1,000.
And that really sucks.
“Since SPMK took over, the homes got renovated. Old carpets were replaced with hardwood floors; kitchens got new cabinets and appliances. Outside, fresh siding went up and flower beds were filled with uniform rows of privet and pink roses.
But longtime tenants of this predominantly blue collar, African American neighborhood also said their monthly payments on their small two-bedroom apartments had gone up 50% over the last five years, increasing from about $650 to as much as $1,000.
Rents are rising nationally. But a rate increase of roughly 10% a year since 2013 is surprisingly high, about double the rate of rentals in the Lithia Springs area, said Dan Immergluck, a professor at Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute, who specializes in neighborhood change and housing markets.
“That’s a lot, and it’s fast,” Immergluck said, noting that even if Hannity spent thousands of dollars on renovations for each unit, “he is probably doing quite well” in terms of profit.
“It’s not really affordable,” said Rouster, a Meadows resident, as a pair of toddlers waddled around her tiny living room.
“He’s not helping. He’s making money,” said Iyabo Balogun, a 51-year-old home-helper who works with the elderly and lives in a unit with her niece and her two children. “If he was helping, he wouldn’t be increasing rents every year.”
But Hannity is helping Iyabo…helping himself.