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Owners of Blighted, Foreclosed Homes in DeKalb County Face $1000 a Day Fines | News

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Owners of Blighted, Foreclosed Homes in DeKalb County Face $1000 a Day Fines
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DECATUR, Ga. -- The hammer's about to come down, hard, in DeKalb County on owners of foreclosed homes who let their properties deteriorate.

DeKalb is the first local government in Georgia to crack down like this; beginning October 25, owners of any blighted, foreclosed homes in DeKalb County will have to pay a fine of $1,000 a day until they fix them up and clean them up.

"Somebody's coming after them now," said Homeowner Brenda Pace Tuesday evening.

Her neighborhood's story is an old, sad one -- with, maybe, a new, happy ending.

Pace is President of the East Lake Terrace Neighborhood Association, off of Glenwood Ave. in DeKalb County.

She's fought for more than two years to keep up with the ever-changing ownership of the 50 homes in her neighborhood, out of about 1,100 (almost 5 percent of them), that have been in foreclosure. On every street there are broken down, abandoned, foreclosed homes, magnets for garbage and disease, and depressing property values.

She's hopeful because the new ordinance will help DeKalb County determine who the actual owners of the foreclosed homes are, requirr the owners to pay a $175 registration fee, and require them to keep their properties well maintained. If they don't comply, the county will fine the owners $1,000 a day.

Of course, if they don't have the money to maintain their properties, they're not going to be able to pay those fines, so what difference will the new ordinance make?

Plenty, potentially. Brenda Pace said the county will then be able to take ownership from the violators.

"Eventually, maybe we can take these homes -- the county -- renovate them," and sell them.  "And put families, good families back into homes."

Tuesday night at the Decatur Public Library auditorium, DeKalb County Commissioner Connie Stokes, who authored the new ordinance, held an informational meeting for mortgage holders, bankers, investors, attorneys -- many of whom opposed the ordinance when the Commission approved it in July.

Joe Brannen of the Georgia Bankers Association took notes, certain his member banks are not the ones who are the violators.

But the violators -- where are they going to come up with the money, he wondered, for the big fines?

"A thousand dollars a day seems to be somewhat high," Brannen said. "And a lot of people that are foreclosing are not traditional lenders" such as the big banks and mortgage firms. "They're people who have lent money to other people and they'll find themselves caught in this, we're afraid."

Brannen said the Georgia Bankers Association is not going to challenge the new ordinance but will comply.

"I think we all have the same goal," he said, "getting those foreclosed homes dealt with quickly, maintained while they're in foreclosure, and getting them back on the market and sold quickly.... Traditional lenders are accommodating the rules that are in place, now. They're maintaining the properties, they're getting those properties sold as quickly as possible. The county has concerns about other properties that are deteriorating," properties that are not owned by banks but by others such as individual investors.

"My heart still breaks," Brenda Pace said, looking at her neighborhood, "because we're still basically at ground zero."

She's hoping that in a year or two, the new ordinance will have helped clean up the foreclosure blight in East Lake Terrace and in other DeKalb County neighborhoods.

"It would make our community look like it did a few years ago."

Commissioner Stokes said Tuesday that the county is getting calls from local governments all over Georgia wanting information as they consider imposing similar crackdowns on owners of foreclosed homes.

 

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