State of Vacant Properties in Rural Georgia
A Policy Brief
Published: November 2023
Author(s): Odetta Macleish-White, Mallory Rappaport
Across Georgia’s 123 rural counties are thousands of diverse, historic, and beautiful towns and cities. These communities share some common challenges: climate vulnerability, declining economic centers, and loss of critical infrastructure such as broadband connectivity and hospitals. When it comes to vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties, these rural communities face specific barriers: properties are physically farther apart from one another; more properties have issues with unmarketable title, such as heirs’ properties; and the cost of fixing up the property often exceeds its market value or the financial capacity of the owners.
Yet, these same vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties offer great opportunity for solutions to these challenges. They could be the sites of much-needed housing, vibrant local businesses, community gathering spaces, and buffers against extreme weather events. The first step to reclaiming these vacant spaces is understanding the scale of the problem.
This research brief identifies general trends in residential vacancy and distressed properties across rural counties in Georgia to provide a statewide baseline on the quantity and condition of these types of properties. It is an initial and high level overview, intended to be a first step in crafting equitable and effective strategies for repurposing this underutilized land resource.
- Eighty-five rural counties had an “Other” vacant rate above 8 percent in 2017-2021.
- Black households are disproportionately impacted by vacancies. Rural counties with the highest Black population percentage corresponded with higher vacancy rates in 2017-2021.
- Rural counties are disproportionately impacted by negative health factors. In Georgia, rural counties make up the first 33 ranked lowest for health factors according to the 2023 County Health Rankings. These health factors include physical environment and socioeconomic factors.
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