The Rapidian

Land Banks are Us!

/Tyler Nickerson

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An article from the Lansing City Pulse about the Ingham County Land Bank


Land Banks are Us!

Land bank: Two not-so-provocative four-letter words, strung together to form a term that most of us have never heard or used. What if I came to your door with a camera crew and said, “Congratulations, you're a winner! You are now the proud owner of a land bank!” Would you jump up and down and clap your hands and cry tears of joy? Would you give a shout-out to your mom? If you live in Kent County, you should. We are all the proud owners of a land bank. Now we just have to use it. As soon as we find out what it is. One way to do that is to attend the upcoming community forum being held by the Kent County Land Bank Authority. Another way is to keep reading.

They have a land bank in Flint. They have one in Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo and Muskegon. They can be found across the country in cities like Minneapolis, Philadelphia, and Cleveland. Ours was approved by the County Commission in 2009. The land bank will keep vacant properties from sitting and rotting in our neighborhoods and commercial districts. In the wake of the foreclosure crisis, vacant buildings are everybody's problem. They sit empty, become blighted, degrade communities, and lower property. They get auctioned off, often online, and become the property of speculators who may or may not maintain them. Essentially, they belong to no one. But now, because we have formed a land bank, we can take them back so they will belong to us.

Land banks can acquire, repair, maintain, and sell vacant properties to responsible investors. If they are beyond repair, they can demolish them. The difference between a land bank and any other prospective buyer is that land banks are us, and we are invested in the future of the property. We won't sell to any old slum lord. We can hold out for the green developer, the local business owner, or the responsible landlord that wants to invest in our community. We also can support those responsible investors with many incentives such as: title clearance, Brownfield tax credits, tax increment financing (TIF), holding the property tax free, and forgiveness of liens. More and more families with children have lost their homes and are now renting, so it's important for single family rentals to be safe, high quality homes. Many local landlords who provide that type of housing have a stake in their communities, and because we have a land bank, we can reserve vacant properties for people who care.

In 2009 the land bank authority was formed. Members of the board include Ken Parrish, the Kent County Treasurer, Sharon Brinks of the City of Kentwood, Rosalyn Bliss of the City of Grand Rapids, George Meek of Plainfield Township, and Stan Ponstein of the Kent County Commission. The board guides the actions of the land bank and spent much of 2010 on items such as creating founding documents and bylaws. Now it's March 2011, and it's go time! The land bank is in the process of obtaining resources to hire staff and start buying properties. We may start with just a dozen properties, but if we follow the example set by other counties in Michigan and nationwide, we could soon be working with millions of dollars in assets, start putting vacant properties to productive reuse, and begin stabilizing property values for all of Kent County. The land bank will be an indispensable tool for addressing the fallout from the foreclosure crisis.


Developers, business owners, elected officials, and anyone interested in improving property values, our housing stock, our business districts and our communities, are encouraged to attend the community forum to be held on March 23rd at the Dominican Center at 2025 E Fulton. Eric Shertzing from the Ingham County Land Bank will be in town to present on their accomplishments in Lansing’s neighborhoods. To RSVP call the county treasurers office: 616-632-7513 or email Kym Spring at [email protected]. Kym can answer any questions about the event.



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Hi Carolyn:


Thanks so much for sharing this information! As one of the landlords that has rehabbed a couple abandoned buildings (foreclosed homes that we are pretty sure were sitting empty for quite a while), it's good to see this program start to get off the ground.  Keep it up-important to see what our city is up to!

I have been traveling to Flint a lot lately, and I've been hearing about the Gennessee County landbank thinking "why don't we have one these?!" So, thanks for this!