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Land Bank Authority ‘making an impact’

August 31, 2018

Blighted, abandoned properties that become the responsibility of local taxpayers are being sold for redevelopment through the Rome-Floyd County Land Bank Authority.

The joint agency’s been operating for just over a year and already has generated $126,878 in revenue, according to Rome Community Development Director Bekki Fox.

“To me, it’s a double-phase benefit,” said Rob Ware of Cave Spring, one of the five appointees who make up the citizen-board. “These are properties nobody was paying taxes on. But the real good news is we’re increasing the housing stock in Rome and Floyd County.”

Fox said they’ve sold 29 properties transferred from the local governments and have nine more under contract as of last week.

“And remember, we don’t get the best of the best. We get the worst of the worst,” she said.

Most of them came from Floyd County, which has a list of about 150 unwanted parcels that public works crews now have to mow and maintain.

Local governments are required to publicly advertise their surplus items and sell to the highest bidder. As a separate entity constituted under state law, the Land Bank Authority has the power to combine lots, market them and choose buyers that have viable plans.

Some parcels, such as a vacant tract at 109 Cherokee St., are sold to people living next door who want to enlarge their property. Others — Fox gave examples of 107 Euclid Ave. and 122 Payne Road — had houses that were refurbished or rebuilt.

“We’re making an impact ... a blighted home affects property values and this can make a tremendous, tremendous improvement to a neighborhood,” Fox said.

The properties rarely sell for more than a few thousand dollars. But Harry Brock, a real estate appraiser who fills another seat on the Land Bank Authority, said it’s more important to get an empty and neglected house off the government surplus list and into the right hands.

“If you’re a neighbor selling your house, you think, ‘I’m doing my part. I need the city and county to do theirs,’” Brock said.

Fox said a clause in the sales contract allows the authority to take the property back if the buyer doesn’t start on the approved redevelopment plan within 12 months.

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