Once again demonstrating its leadership in urban land reform, the state of Georgia stands ready to consider modernizing and strengthening the land bank statutes already in place. While land banks are already being used by communities around the state to help deal with vacant, abandoned and tax-delinquent properties, a new piece of legislation, Senate Bill 284, would greatly enhance their utility and effectiveness in facilitating the return of “problem” properties to productive use.
Introduced by state Senator Tim Golden,SB 284 would expand the range of tools available to revitalize Georgia communities. It offers several self-financing mechanisms giving land banks more funding options and thereby decreasing their reliance on government funding. SB 284 would permit a land bank to work directly with community land trusts in order to protect affordable housing inventory. SB 284 would permit the creation of regional land banks so that counties that would not otherwise have the resources to support a local land bank could join together to minimize costs and use their resources more efficiently. Finally, SB 284 includes important ties to the tax foreclosure process, minimizing the amount of time that property is left vacant and vulnerable to vandalism and decay.
Ultimately, the new Georgia Land Bank Act extends maximum control to local governments over the creation and operations of land banks within their communities. The new act is an important piece of legislation that modernizes the current land bank statute. Passage of SB 284 will help Georgia communities and will signal Georgia’s continued leadership in the field of land banks and land banking.
Leslie Powell is Assistant General Counsel and Coodinator of State Policy for Community Progress