Louisiana passes ballot initiative to return properties to the tax rolls faster

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Old State Capital - Baton Rouge, LA - Credit Kim Graziani for the Center for Community Progress - 2012

Rotunda in Old State Capital – Baton Rouge, LA – Credit Kim Graziani for the Center for Community Progress – 2012

Election Day was a noisy affair: big headlines, big news stories, and a deluge of television coverage, focused mainly on federal elections. Flying mostly below the radar, however, voters also opted “yay” or “nay” on a number of ballot initiatives that could have a big impact on their states.

In Louisiana, 54% of voters passed a state constitutional amendment shrinking the amount of time that vacant, abandoned, tax-foreclosed properties spend stuck in limbo. The amendment shortens Louisiana’s redemption period from three years to eighteen months for vacant, blighted, or abandoned properties sold at tax sale, allowing prospective owners quicker access to a clean title.

In other words, it will reduce the time a property owner has to “buy back” his property, with interest and fees sold at tax sale for failure to pay property taxes. Thus, a potential purchaser now only has to wait 18 months to take full and clear title. This benefits the community in a number of ways:

  • A shortened redemption period will allow communities struggling with vacant properties to take speedier action to return properties to productive use .
  • Quicker access to a clear title will allow the public sector to encourage responsible property owners to invest in neighborhoods, supporting redevelopment.
  • More property will be rehabilitated and placed back on the tax rolls, generating much-needed revenue for cash-strapped cities.

A statewide coalition of organizations and local governments pushed for and secured inclusion of the amendment on the ballot. Prior to that, Community Progress advised the coalition on state policy options to consider, including how a shortened redemption period could return properties to the tax rolls faster. The coalition, whose earliest beginnings can be traced to our 2010 Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference, also secured passage of a new state law in 2013 adding “oomph” to code enforcement efforts throughout the State.