West Virginia Tackles Vacancy With Tax Reform

The Center for Community Progress made recommendations for tax reform in West Virginia to address vacancy. Guided by CCP's suggestions, the state auditor’s office has passed two laws to change its tax sales process and keep properties in use.

2 minute read

September 28, 2023, 7:00 AM PDT

By LM_Ortiz

White two-story abandoned farmhouse in lush green field surrounded by trees in West Virginia.

Sherman Cahal / Adobe Stock

West Virginia is addressing its vacancy epidemic head-on.

The state—which has one of the highest vacancy rates in the country—recently passed new regulations to help alleviate some of the negative effects vacant properties have on communities. The policies aim to help keep communities from losing properties to speculators; give neighbors, cities, and land banks an advantage in purchasing unsold property; and allow struggling homeowners to use payment plans to manage their delinquent taxes.

Senate Bill 548, which passed in June, is making a lot of buyers who purchase property at tax sales nervous, says Christal Perry, the state’s assistant director of land. When homeowners fail to pay their property taxes, the delinquent property can eventually go to a tax sale, where bidders can purchase it. The new bill requires that bidders join a registry before entering a tax sale. The registry gives officials an opportunity to examine whether a bidder has a history of mis-using property, including previous code violations or delinquent property taxes. Bidders who have these histories will no longer be able to participate in a tax sale.

LLCs can only participate after they register with the West Virginia Secretary of State.

According to the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office, out-of-state speculators—buyers who purchase property with the intent of making a profit—often buy property during tax sales to damaging effect. The office says that these buyers have made the tax sale “a root cause of slum and blight,” allowing for vacancy to increase “with no desire to turn properties into usable living spaces.”

“If [buyers are] not going to come in and be productive purchasers of those properties, then we certainly don’t want them in here purchasing property, and leaving it worse than they came,” Perry says.

Friday, September 22, 2023 in Shelterforce Magazine

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Gravel walkway along lake at Earvin Magic Johnson Park in Los Angeles County.

‘Parks After Dark’ Helps LA County Communities Thrive

Los Angeles County's popular Parks After Dark program continues to serve communities in need and offer multiple important benefits, as documented in a recent UCLA study.

30 minutes ago - UCLA Newsroom

Delivery drone holding a brown paper wrapped box hoveringin air with city in background.

Utah Establishes Air Mobility Framework

The program outlines a statewide approach to delivery drones and other air transportation options.

1 hour ago - PR Newswire

Amtrak train at Union Station with Chicago skyline in background.

St. Paul-to-Chicago Borealis Rail Line Launches

The Amtrak service, 12 years in the making, doubles the number of available trips on the corridor.

2 hours ago - Route Fifty

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.