Study praises Kent County Land Bank for creating economic impact of $43M

posted on April 25, 2017 5:00pm

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By: Jim Harger.

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - The Kent County Land Bank has generated an economic impact of $42.9 million over the past four years, according to a study by Michigan State University Land Policy Institute.

The report, was released on Tuesday, April 25, two days before a subcommittee of the Kent County Board of Commissioners will review the land bank’s performance and future.

The land bank, which has been involved in 484 property transactions, was created in 2009 to combat the blight associated with abandoned homes and property in the wake of the Great Recession.

By taking over properties that were abandoned after their owners stopped paying property taxes, the land bank improved the properties or sold them investors and homeowners who pledged to make improvements.

The MSU study concluded the land bank generated $1.77 in the regional economy for every dollar spent. Homes within 500 feet of completed land bank activity resulted in a sales price increase of $7,064 per home, the study said.

“Our analysis demonstrates the Land Bank Authority’s critical role in supporting economic growth and development in Kent County,” said Mark Wyckoff, Interim Director at the MSU Land Policy Institute.

“In addition to reducing blight and bringing dilapidated properties back to productive use, this study shows the land bank fills a critical gap in neighborhood restoration and economic development.”

The Land Policy Institute said it also interviewed 24 government officials, neighbors, local business, non-profits and community leaders, and facilitated an online survey of neighbors that had 89 respondents.

The study also concluded that the land bank struggles with its perception in the community, with some linking it to a reduced supply of affordable houses in the community.

“The study confirms the Kent County Land Bank Authority was a key partner during the housing crisis and continues to play a key role in the West Michigan economy,” said City of Grand Rapids Deputy City Manager Eric DeLong in a statement.

“The KCLBA continues to return blighted, dilapidated properties to the marketplace quickly, responsibly and with greater transparency and accountability. We are fortunate to have them as a partner in stabilizing neighborhoods.”

While city officials have praised the land bank, it has generated opposition from some private developers and landlords who wanted to purchase the abandoned properties at auction.

The Grand Rapids Association of Realtors also concluded recently the land bank may have outlived its purpose now that the West Michigan real estate market is one of the hottest in the nation.

“It is difficult to understand, therefore, the need for expansion or growth of the KCLB at a time when the private market is feverishly competing for housing inventory and should not have to compete with a quasi-governmental entity that is not on a level playing field with private citizens and businesses,” the association said in a position paper.

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