Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive

On February 18, Savannah City Council will consider adoption of a new ordinance to help combat chronic blight in Savannah. Called the Community Redevelopment Tax Incentive, the proposed ordinance creates a process for declaring properties maintained in a chronically blighted condition, and establishes a mechanism to tax those properties at a higher rate until they are brought into compliance.

The proposed ordinance can be read HERE.

The following is a brief Q&A on key aspects of the proposal. If you have further questions or comments, please submit them through the feedback form. We will work to get you answers.

Q: Which properties will qualify for this proposed tax increase?

A: Under this ordinance, a qualifying blighted property must present two or more blighted conditions as defined in the ordinance. The ordinance targets the worst of the worst unoccupied properties that are deemed uninhabitable or unsafe for sustained periods of time. The ordinance does not apply to occupied properties, or properties with less serious problems, such as ones that are in violation solely because of aesthetic reasons.

Q: What’s the process for identifying blighted properties that would be subject to increased taxation?

A: An inspection of the property would be performed, a report written, and the code official would make a determination in writing that the property is blighted as defined by the ordinance and qualifies for the increased taxation. The property owner would then be served with this notice. The property owner would have 30 days from receipt to request a hearing in Recorder’s Court. A hearing would be set and notice given by legal advertisement. At the hearing, evidence would be presented and the Judge would affirm or reverse the code official’s determination. Property owners could then appeal to Superior Court.

Q: How does the increase in taxation work?

A: If the property is upheld as blighted, the City’s portion of the property tax bill would be increased by multiplying the City’s millage rate by 7. Currently, the City’s millage rate is 12.48, which means a property owner pays $12.48 for every $1,000 of assessed property value. Under this ordinance, the property would instead be taxed at $87.36 per $1,000 of assessed value.

Q: What will the City do with this new revenue? 

A: Any revenue arising from the increased rate of ad valorem taxation shall be used only for community redevelopment purposes, including defraying the cost of the City’s programs to close, repair or demolish unfit structures. The hope is this ordinance will encourage those who cannot maintain their properties to sell them to those who can. If that does not happen, ownership change may be forced in some cases through tax sale.

Q: Will the taxes go back down when the property comes into compliance?

A: Yes. An owner whose property has been declared blighted may petition the code official to lift the designation after completion of work required under a plan of remedial action or required by court action. Once the blighted designation is lifted, the property then becomes eligible for a decreased rate of taxation. At such time, the City’s normal millage rate (currently 12.48 mills) will be cut in half for up to four years.

Reader's Questions
Q. If a property owner is unresponsive after 30 days what's the procedure then?

A. If a property owner is unresponsive after 30 days, then they will not have a hearing in Recorder's Court. The property will still then qualify for the increased property tax.

Q. It would be helpful in assessing this proposal to have shown examples of how this approach has succeeded in other cities. 

A. Similar initiatives have been successfully implemented in cities throughout Georgia, including Albany, College Park, Griffin and Swainsboro.

Q. How will senior citizens be notified other than by TV, Bulletin Board, & meetings?

A. It’s important to emphasize that this ordinance applies only to unoccupied homes. No one, seniors or otherwise, will be displaced from their home because of this ordinance. Property owners will be notified directly if their property falls under the purview of this ordinance.

Q. Will there be a lien on their home? 

A. A lien would be taken out on a property if the owner fails to pay their property taxes.

Q. Are there government grant available, and as anyone tried to locate grants any?

A. For occupied homes, the City offers Home Improvement Grants and Loans to low-income homeowners for building exterior and site improvements that benefit both the homeowner and the surrounding neighborhood. For more information, call 912-651-6517.

Q. Is this a plot to move blacks out of the city?

A. This ordinance will only apply to unoccupied houses and will not displace anyone from their home.

Q. Why aren't landlords held accountable for the blight they cause in the city and county, and are there plans in place to correct this type of injustice and or behavior? They rent houses and refuse to repair them etc. IT'S TIME to put accountability into action, and Make them Keep their rental properties up to code.

A. Landlords are held accountable under the Derelict Rental Property Ordinance. That ordinance focuses on landlords who keep their properties in chronically derelict conditions or allow criminality to persist. The more times the landlord is cited, the higher the fines. Rental properties which are not being kept in good condition can be reported to 311.

Q. Have guidelines been established to eliminate harassment? 

A. The ordinance is not meant to target or harass any particular group of people, but rather directly address the most neglected, uninhabitable properties. We expect this ordinance to apply to approximately 60 properties in Savannah.

Q. What assistance will be made available to senior citizens/any citizen, who needs help with the process? 

A. Under this ordinance, property owners may request a hearing in Recorder’s Court to review the findings of the City.

Q. What about HUD and other public housing facilities. Will they be held accountable also, and how will that be handled? 

A. This ordinance only applies to unoccupied housing.

Q. Is dual citizenship lawful? There are a lot of citizens that spend 6 months here, and then 6 months in another state. 

A. There are no laws prohibiting an individual from residing in more than one state during the year.

Q. Zoning for a lot of short termed rentals are being approved, and how will they be handled. Will they be mandated to keep their properties up to code, and will there be follow-ups to make sure.

A. Yes, short term rentals must be maintained and meet the same standards as other properties.