Warnock's Church Resumes Evictions From Low-Income Apartment Building as It Enriches the Senator

(Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)
August 31, 2023

With Sen. Raphael Warnock (D., Ga.) safe and secure in the Senate for the next six years, the church where he collects a salary as a part-time pastor is back to evicting residents of the low-income apartment building it owns—a subject that became a flashpoint in Warnock's 2022 reelection campaign.

Since the Democrat won reelection in December, Fulton County court records show, the apartment building owned by Ebenezer Baptist Church has moved to evict six residents. The building, Columbia MLK Tower, has received over $15 million in federal and state funding to shelter the "chronically homeless," but has nonetheless taken four residents to court this year for falling behind on rent by less than two months. Law enforcement officials forcibly ejected another resident from the pest-infected building in July.

Warnock denied during the 2022 campaign that the church was evicting residents, telling Georgia voters that the Free Beacon reports were "vicious and venomous" attempts to "sully Ebenezer Baptist Church" and the "church of Jesus Christ."

Ebenezer pays Warnock a six-figure salary for his part-time pastoral services at levels that exceed the outside income allowance for senators. Warnock has leveraged several accounting loopholes to rake in sums far beyond that $30,000 limit. The church paid the senator $120,000 in 2021, for example, $89,000 of which was a tax-free "parsonage allowance" that he used to pay for his $1 million Atlanta home. And though Warnock made $155,000 from his church in 2022, the senator claimed $125,000 of that salary as "deferred compensation" for services he rendered before he was sworn into office in January 2021, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

Among the disadvantaged residents facing eviction from Ebenezer's apartment building is Vietnam veteran Phillip White. The building's property manager, Columbia Residential, moved in March to evict White for $192 in unpaid rent after he fell about five weeks behind on his payments.

Columbia Residential voluntarily dismissed that lawsuit after White accused the building of failing to repair several appliances in his unit. But White was taken to court again in June for falling behind on his rent payments by less than two months. The Fulton County Magistrate Court on Aug. 7 granted law enforcement officials a writ of possession to remove White from the property.

This isn't the first time Ebenezer's apartment building has sought to evict White. It filed a dispossessory notice against White in September 2022 for $192 in unpaid rent, only to drop the case in November after the Free Beacon reported the building's aggressive eviction practices.

White said Warnock's denials are a slap in the face.

"He said there would be no evictions," White told the Free Beacon in November. "He knew that was a lie. What he was really saying is there would be no evictions until after the election."

Warnock, Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Columbia Residential did not return requests for comment.