Nearly a year after the implementation of DeKalb’s foreclosure registry, resident Calvin Sims said he is very pleased.
Sims, president of the Chapman Mill/Redan Park Homeowners Association, said the foreclosed properties in his community were not being maintained prior to the foreclosure registry being enacted.
Residents were irritated at the sight of the tall grass in the neighborhood.
“We would have to call code enforcement to get something done about it,” Sims said. “One had gotten so bad that we went over and cut [the grass] ourselves.”
Now, said Sims, landscaping companies are maintaining these properties on a regular basis.
“You would almost think somebody was living there,” Sims said. And his neighbors have not filed any complaints on these properties this year. “That’s something we haven’t seen before. I really think it’s working.”
Implemented in October 2010, the registry is designed to “protect residential neighborhoods from becoming blighted through the lack of adequate maintenance and security of abandoned properties as a result of the foreclosure crisis,” according to the ordinance.
The foreclosure ordinance requires any beneficiary or trustee of a foreclosed property to register the property annually with the county at a cost of $175. The ordinance also requires trustees to identify the firm in charge of maintaining the property and it established a fine of $1,000 per day for improper maintenance.
In the past 10 months, the county has collected more than $557,000 in fees from approximately 18,000 foreclosed homes on its foreclosure registry.
Not everyone thinks the registry is a success.
“This program has been an absolute failure,” said Mahogany Rhodes, vice president of the Atlanta Board of Realtors. “The only thing it has done is amass $570,000 in a slush fund. It’s just provided jobs for five people.”
Two code enforcement officers hired to enforce the foreclosure ordinance “have not written one single citation,” Rhodes said.
“The program has done nothing to alter or improve the condition of a single solitary property,” Rhodes said. “It has not improved [or] protected property values for residents.”
On Sept. 13, the Board of Commissioners deferred voting on a plan to use approximately $270,000 to fund the salaries of a full-time registry manager, two records technicians and two officers. Currently, the salaries are being funded through the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
The positions, except the registry manager, are time-limited and will be funded while monies last.
“As the money dwindles in that account, then these positions will be time-limited,” said Andrew Baker, the county’s interim director for planning and sustainability. “When the funds are no longer there, then the positions …will be eliminated as well.”
A bill introduced in the legislature by Rep. Mike Jacobs, who represents part of DeKalb County, would set statewide standards for foreclosure registries, including limiting registration fees to $100.
Baker said the county is in the process of restructuring the county’s foreclosure registry system. One change will be the use of a code enforcement officer to determine what work is needed to remove a property from the foreclosure registry.
At a recent Board of Commissioners committee meeting, commissioners said the county needs a tangible plan to show that the registry is addressing the public interest in preserving foreclosed properties.
“It’s also important for us to defend our system in the legislature, for instance, to be able to fully account for the funds that we collect and show that we are delivering the services in return for the fee,” said Commissioner Jeff Rader.