Foreclosed homes could go to police

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ATLANTA --- The typical mortgage is 30 years. But walk a beat in Atlanta, and that house could be yours in half the time -- and for just a little money down.

As a solution to metro Atlanta's foreclosure crisis, a lawmaker plans to propose giving foreclosed, abandoned homes to county police officers, who can't afford to live in the neighborhoods they protect.

But officers must agree to serve 15 years on the force before they get the property deed, and the board of commissioners would have to persuade lenders holding the liens to give several homes to the county in exchange for tax breaks.

"I thought somebody should be in these homes," said Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts. "Here's a way to help a group of people who put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis at a relatively minor cost."

Georgia has consistently been in the top 10 in foreclosed properties, with the nation's sixth highest foreclosure rate in November, according to RealtyTrac, a Web site that tracks foreclosures.

Mr. Pitts said he thought of the plan after looking at all the empty homes in his southwest Atlanta neighborhood.

Officers would have to come up with a $2,500 down payment and be responsible for all taxes, insurance, utilities and maintenance. Mr. Pitts said he plans to meet as soon as next week with several "major lenders," whom he declined to name, to discuss his plan.

"Here's an opportunity for them to have some goodwill coming from the community in which they do business by helping with public safety," Mr. Pitts said. "If we could get 200 (homes), that would be a good start."

The Fulton County Police Department has 130 officers, 18 fewer than its target. The starting salary is $32,646 for high school graduates and $38,000 for officers with a bachelor's degree, so finding affordable houses in the city is tough.

Department spokesman Lt. Darryl Halbert said the agency is excited about the proposal.

"The officers are able to obtain a home for very little down, the community gets a police officer and the department can use this as a recruiting tool," he said.

If it's successful, firefighters or others could later be added, Mr. Pitts said.

He still must get the idea past the commission. Chairman John Eaves declined to comment on the issue through his spokesman, Darryl Hicks, who said there is not yet a proposal to consider.

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I4PUTT
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I4PUTT 01/11/09 - 04:30 pm
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Is there any monthly fee? How

Is there any monthly fee? How can this be legal? I thought when homes were foreclosed, then sold, the initial purchaser was responsible for any remaining balance after the property was sold. How long before they start doing this for my profession???

As It Is
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As It Is 01/11/09 - 05:30 pm
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I4Putt, while I agree with

I4Putt, while I agree with your questions as everything must be answered, you must admit that in theory, it is a good idea. Police officers should live in the communities which they serve whenever possible. Patrol cars parked in neighborhoods or apartment complexes do help the area. Quicker response times in emergencies, etc. are also all positive reasons. If the homes are "donated" after the bank has taked full repossession and all time frames have been met, etc. then certainly this is a great added benefit that the county could offer to attract and retain good law enforcement officers, especially with the 15 year commitment attatched. But, lets just say we don't agree with this proposal. Will you agree that a salay of $32,000.00 to $38,000.00 to be a police officer in Fulton County Georgia is a joke. They are short 18 officers and have a hard time recruiting just as Richmond County is short 40 officers. I would think there would be no need to consider plans such as these "housing for officers" if they were paid a fair salary for the job they are assigned and the performance of their duties.

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