Council Moves Toward Instituting Blight Tax

In an effort to deal with dilapidated houses that move from eyesores to dangerous spots in neighborhoods, the city of Savannah is sending out a warning to owners who abandone their property.  It’s called the blight tax and the Savannah City Council passed the first reading of the ordinance on Thursday.

“This is one more tool in the toolbox to help influence people to keeping their property maintained,” said Assistant City Manger Pete Shonka.  “We’re talking about folks who are just sitting on the property, it’s abandoned, it’s not being utilized so it just continues to degrade.”

Shonka says city maintenance staff as well as police have to spend time trying to maintain the property and or answer calls of concern there such as vandalism or other crime.

“So that’s hopefully some incentive for people to say okay I’m paying a higher rate here I need to do something with the property,” says Shonka.  “On the other side, if they invest a certain amount of money in the property then there is the opportunity to have a lower tax rate for a number of years.

this tax would just be for city property taxes, and would not increase taxes taxes paid to the county or school district.  City staff also make a point of saying this is not about an elderly or low income person living in their home who can’t afford repairs.  They say the city wants to help those folks.  Staff say this is about owners who have simply abandoned any responsibility toward their property. It’s an effort to get them to respond by making repairs.

In some cases, they say the increase in property taxes might only be a few hundred dollars but perhaps enough to get a property owner’s attention.  If not, the property may end up being auctioned off a sale and the hope is that someone who wants to fix it up will buy it.

The second reading of the ordinance will be in two weeks.

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