The Georgia General Assembly approved a bill last week authorizing local communities to form land banks and fund the acquisition and rehab of vacant homes.
The Center for Community Progress, a national policy think tank, authored the Georgia Land Bank Act, or S.B. 284. It revises original law adopted more than 20 years ago and allows for more collaboration among cities and counties within the hard-hit state.
Since the housing crash in 2007, a total of 79 Georgia banks failed, more than any other state in the country, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Currently, the second highest foreclosure rate in the country is in Atlanta. Mortgage servicers filed nearly 9,000 foreclosures in the city that month, one in every 244 homes, according to RealtyTrac.
The vacancy rate in Georgia did drop to 2.9% in the fourth quarter, down from 3.3% at the beginning of the year but still above the 2.2% national average, according to the Census Bureau.
The new law would allow local land banks to develop a financing system that uses renewed tax revenue after the vacant home is resold to buy more properties. It also clears the way for these land banks to more easily acquire properties that are heavily tax delinquent.
Community Progress said the bill mirrors legislation passed in New York and is being considered in Pennsylvania, Missouri and Nebraska.
"Land banking is one part of a vast toolkit – from code enforcement and reform of delinquent property tax sales to new approaches to reuse strategies – that can give communities the real ability to intervene in cycles of blight and abandonment and repurpose vacant properties for productive reuse," said Community Progress COO Amy Hovey.
The bill is still pending a signature from Gov. Nathan Deal.