Property owners may see higher taxes for abandoning homes



ATLANTA - Atlanta may soon tell property owners to clean up urban blight or pay the price through higher property taxes.

Channel 2’s Jeff Dore walked up and down Law Street in northwest Atlanta where he found a row of five dilapidated houses. Several were boarded and some were even burned.

Some residents said the conditions attract crime and rodents, ultimately bringing down the property value of the community.

“(The rodents) are ripping out the hot water heaters, ripping out the floors, ripping out the windows,” added resident Tony Williams.

In an effort to combat this issue, a few years ago, the state Legislature passed a law telling cities they could multiply property taxes on abandoned and blighted real estate. Atlanta City Councilwoman Joyce Sheperd is jumping on it.

“We're doing everything we can to tackle all the blight. A blight tax to me is one of the most logical things in the state,” she told Dore.

Some question if the change will work, assuming property owners who abandon property aren't paying any taxes. But Sheperd said that’s not necessarily the case.

“You got developers and all kind of folks who buy property, make sure the taxes are OK on it, but they're not interested in keeping the grass up, making sure the building isn't run down,” she said.

Sheperd said one other Georgia city has already started the effort, and the pressure on the pocketbook has had some success.

“I love it,” Sheperd said.

Love won't make it happen, though. The city of Atlanta law department has to work with Fulton County tax collectors to make it work right, so it will be awhile before this legislation is ready for a vote in Atlanta City Council.