Atlanta officials consider ‘blight tax’ for neglected properties

(The Center Square) — Atlanta officials are considering a new tax to target neglected properties that result in “blighted conditions and disinvestment” in some Atlanta neighborhoods.

Mayor Andre Dickens, working with Councilmember Byron Amos, announced legislation to create a “blight tax.” If approved, the legislation would allow the municipal court to tax neglected properties, which officials said would change the “economics of neglectful land speculation.”

According to the city, occupied properties would be exempt from the program.

In 2002, Georgia voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing cities and counties to create a Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive Program, commonly known as a blight tax, Bruce Ailion, a real estate agent and attorney at RE/MAX Town & Country, told The Center Square.

“There are numerous blighted properties across the city, and the owners of these properties have failed to improve them,” DJ Olojo, host of The Foreclosure Fix Podcast and an investor in Atlanta, told The Center Square via email. “They often become eyesores and put a black eye on their communities.

“Some properties are caught up in legal limbo, while others, such as the owner(s), may be indifferent about the condition,” Olojo added. “People need to be positively or negatively incentivized to take action. If structured properly, this tax can provide the much-needed incentive to property owners who allow their properties to become dilapidated and cause potential harm to their communities.”

Daniel Cabrera, owner and founder of Sell My House Fast SA TX, told The Center Square a blight tax would motivate absentee property owners to care for their properties, thereby increasing the overall property values in respective neighborhoods.

“Good-condition homes attract more investment and interest from potential buyers,” Cabrera said via email. “Neglected property tax can be one of the most significant means of driving community revitalization. Absentee landlords are forced to sell or renovate their property; this could mean a reduction in crime rates and community involvement in neighborhoods.”

“Targeting neglected properties can enable a city to transform blighted areas into vibrant, economically productive zones,” Cabrera added. “This might increase the amount of local business activities and generate employment, thus developing the city’s economy.

Cabrera said that while the tax “is a very promising idea,” implementing it will require some thought about enforcement and support systems for property owners who cannot afford to bring their blighted property into compliance.

“Resources or incentives given to these owners can be vital to successful policy implementation,” Cabrera said. “Other cities with similar policies, such as Philadelphia’s Land Bank program, have mixed results. Looking at these case studies would bring valuable lessons for Atlanta to really finesse the approach and keep away from potential pitfalls.”