Government and Real Estate

Demo dollars for city unknown

Land bank and GR community services ironing out an anti-blight program.

July 26, 2013
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The Kent County Land Bank Authority has agreed to take the lead on a blight elimination program on behalf of the city of Grand Rapids.

It’s an effort that will be funded by federal dollars.

Grand Rapids was one of five cities named by Gov. Rick Snyder in June that will receive a share of $100 million coming from the U.S. Department of Treasury for a new pilot program to rid neighborhoods of unsightly, vacant and unsafe buildings.

“This will be a major expansion of an ongoing effort by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and other state partners to aggressively address blight,” said Snyder.

“We will be stabilizing neighborhoods with a large-scale demolition of the abandoned properties that foster crime and push down property values. Getting rid of these properties will encourage more people to stay in their homes and be part of the effort to improve their neighborhoods,” he added.

The MHSDA board meeting for July was cancelled, so the agency hasn’t revealed how much of the $100 million each city will receive. The board is set to meet Aug. 21 and Sept. 25. Allocations for Grand Rapids, Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw — the five cities targeted to receive the federal dollars — should be known before the state’s fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

KCLBA Executive Director Dave Allen estimated the city could receive about $10 million, a figure he arrived at by using the state agency’s funding formula. But his instincts tell him it will likely be less.

“Right now, we’re looking at about $2.5 million.” said Allen. “We’re at the table with MSHDA to get as much as we possibly can.”

The cities on the east side of the state are likely to get more blight-removal dollars than Grand Rapids because those urban areas have more houses to demolish. Allen said the city has hopes to raze about 100, which includes 27 of the 163 tax-foreclosed properties the land bank just purchased from Grand Rapids.

KCLBA Chairman and County Treasurer Ken Parrish suggested another reason the state’s eastern cities are likely to get more funding is Congressman Dan Kildee played a key role in Michigan getting the $100 million. Kildee, a Democrat from Flint, is a former Genesee County treasurer and chairman of that county’s land bank.

“Freeing up federal money to revitalize and invest in cities, including Flint and Saginaw in my congressional district, will strengthen neighborhoods and unlock greater opportunity for all homeowners,” said Kildee in a statement.

Allen said he has been working closely with Connie Bohatch, the city’s managing director of community services, to map out a plan of action regardless of how much federal money the city gets from MSHDA.

“We are exploring some creative ideas on how to use these funds,” he said. “City staff has some creative ideas and Connie Bohatch has done a great job on this.”

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