Posted by Debby Yoder, DOUGLASVILLE, GA -- For years I have driven by the extended stay hotels in my community and pondered about the people who occupy the rooms. There is little industry or tourist appeal here, so the large number of hotels has always puzzled me. I assumed the rooms were typically vacant, and the occasional guests were people visiting family, friends, or those whose employment required they work away from home for a lengthy period. But then I found out that the individuals and families who live in these hotels call them home -- a trend on the rise since the housing bust. I always wondered why there were storage facilities in such close proximity. I also wondered whether one could receive mail there, or use the location’s address to register children in school, little things like that which most of us take for granted.
The answers turned out to be yes, and the hotel industry -- at least in the greater Atlanta Metro Region -- loves the extended stay concept. These hotels have unusually high occupancy and tend to raise rates more often than traditional hotels. But this doesn't mean it's like staying at the Ritz Carlton (watch out for the bedbugs for one thing). You can get a weekly rate of $154, no deposit required, no questions asked...well, as long as you hand over the cash. This attracts all sorts of people -- families who can only find part-time employment; day laborers, immigrants, parolees, and anybody else who just can't afford to pay a security deposit on a rental apartment.
Hotel managers look the other way when it comes to how many people are staying in a room, as well as a number of other things a landlord might want to know. You could say, "well, at least these residents are not out on the street." True, at least for a week. But the irony is that the weekly rate, on average, translates to just over $600 (plus taxes) per month. However, there are many apartment complexes around the region where you can rent something for less. The problem is the background and credit checks, the number of people, and the ability to come up with two month's rent for the deposit. While there might be some rather unsavory characters putting down temporary roots at these hotels, there are also many law-abiding citizens who simply have no other choice. So the other irony is because they are paying a weekly rate that may increase at anytime, it can be very difficult to save up for that elusive security deposit.
Now when I pass these extended stay hotels, I know that the occupants are not simply visiting family for a few days or are out-of-state people with temporary employment here. It also makes me wonder why the Atlanta region is thought to have a 'soft' rental market when so many people cannot afford housing, and it makes me wonder why we don't have more affordable housing programs for individuals and families in these situations.
Debby Yoder is a contributor to Social Shutter as well as a student at Georgia State University. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.