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DALTON, Ga. - Housing officials plan to use federal money to rehabilitate and lease four foreclosed properties.

"The purpose of this grant is to stabilize communities that have suffered from foreclosure (and) abandonment," said Dalton City Finance Officer Cindy Jackson.

The Dalton-Whitfield Community Development Corp. received the $500,000 grant through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program. County and city officials recently created the Dalton-Whitfield County Land Bank Authority in order to use the grant money, Ms. Jackson said.

The land bank will use the grant money to purchase the four foreclosed homes, rehabilitate the properties and then offer lease-purchase contracts to residents who have experienced foreclosure, Whitfield County Planner Kevin Herrit said.

Properties in the county's Sherwood Forest and Pine Oaks neighborhoods and the city's Morningside subdivision are expected to receive funding. Money may also go toward demolishing one blighted property in the city, according to Mr. Herrit.

Under Georgia law, land bank authorities can hold properties for up to 10 years, which will allow the authority to oversee rehabilitation and retain ownership of the properties while residents build equity to purchase the homes, he said.

The county created the nonprofit land bank authority so local governments would not have to manage the properties.

Mr. Herrit said the agreement creating the land bank was drafted in accordance with state law and is similar to other land bank authorities in Georgia.

The agreement gives the land bank multiple avenues for addressing blighted properties. One option is working with nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Mr. Herrit said.

In addition to residential development, the agreement allows the land bank to work on commercial redevelopment projects for the purpose of creating jobs.

After the initial $500,000 is allocated, Mr. Herrit said, it will be up to city and county officials to determine whether they want to keep the land bank going for future projects.

Dalton City Councilman Charlie Bethel said the land bank is, in some ways, "an experiment."

"It can grow, or not, as basically the local government entities see fit," he said.

Whitfield County Commissioners approved the land bank agreement several weeks ago and the Dalton City Council approved the agreement Monday.

County Commission Chairman Mike Babb and Mr. Bethel said appointments to the land bank will appear as agenda items on upcoming public meetings. Both governments will appoint two members and will consider whether to appoint elected officials or other community members.

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