Atlanta announces crack down on absentee owners of neglected property

Drone photos of demolition work at the former Forest Cove Apartments on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

Credit: Ben Gray

Credit: Ben Gray

Drone photos of demolition work at the former Forest Cove Apartments on Wednesday, March 20, 2024.   (Ben Gray /

The city of Atlanta has unveiled a new measure that would give officials the power to increase property taxes on corporate owners sitting on abandoned properties in Atlanta neighborhoods.

On Tuesday, Mayor Andre Dickens said he had worked with District 3 council member Byron Amos to create an ordinance dubbed the ‘Blight Tax,’ allowing city officials to hit absentee owners with tax bills up to 25 times higher than the current rate if they neglect their properties. If contested, a municipal judge would make a final determination on whether the property is blighted.

“Since taking office, our administration has moved with urgency to address substandard housing and root out negligent property owners,” Dickens said in prepared remarks. “This new policy will equip the city with a powerful tool for cracking down on corporate, absentee owners who treat property as a cheap investment vehicle rather than part of the fabric of our communities.”

The measure would amend the city’s tax laws, and build upon state and national efforts to incentivize owners to remediate or redevelop neglected properties. Among other things, a property could be deemed blighted if it is an “uninhabitable, unsafe, or abandoned structure” or it lacks “ventilation, light, air, or sanitation,” the ordinance states.

It would not lead to the involuntary displacement of residents living in blighted homes, according to the mayor’s office.

Owners will be given an opportunity to remediate and redevelop properties if an inspection designates them as blighted. If the property is returned to “productive use,” owners could get a discounted tax rate, officials said.

Credit: Natrice Miller /

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Credit: Natrice Miller /

Properties with a larger footprint must first agree to a detailed redevelopment plan aligned with a neighborhood’s priorities for connectivity, transportation and public amenities, according to the mayor’s office.

Owners can request a hearing before a municipal court judge within 30 days of receiving notice that the property is blighted or remediation was inadequate.

In an interview, Amos said abandoned properties create a vacuum for criminal activity in his district.

“This tool begins to hit people where we believe it will hurt, and that is their bottom line,” he said.

The introduction of the ordinance followed the city’s action on several housing initiatives. On Monday, the council approved a resolution authorizing a $2 million donation to support the city’s eviction diversion program for low-income Atlantans.

Another resolution authorized a $250,000 donation to the Atlanta Police Foundation to support a $850 subsidy payment to first-responders so they can live in the communities they serve.

The council committed an additional $250,000 to create a trust fund to supplement the federal Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS program for low-income families.

This past Friday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s and the mayor’s office said the federal agency is funding housing assistance and supportive services to address housing needs for eligible individuals and families. AID Atlanta received $2.5 million, and Positive Impact Health Centers received $2.5 million, according to HUD.