West Michigan Cities Work to Restore Homeownership

Census data has revealed that the deep recession, plunging property values, and rising foreclosures have combined to intensify the rising vacancy rate in west Michigan.  Although plagued by property vacancies, west Michigan cities utilize many approaches to encourage homeownership in the area:

The cities of Grand Rapids and of Wyoming and Kent county received $11 million from the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program.  These funds empowered the cities to purchase vacant properties, pursue remodeling and repairs, and sell these properties to qualified, low-income homebuyers.  Additional funding has permitted some of the homes to become rental property.  40 homes have been renovated in Grand Rapids, 27 in Kent County, and 15 in Wyoming.

Land bank authorities in Kent County and Ottawa County permit the counties to purchase and renovate vacant properties for future use using tax and financing benefits, tax foreclosures, among other approaches. Tax foreclosures or traditional means, along with special tax and financing benefits, enable property redevelopment.

Tyler Nickerson, a housing advocate with the Grand Rapids Area Coalition to End Homelessness, said “The land bank does a great job of streamlining that process as much as possible,” he said, “and getting it into the hands of those that can really take a property that is an eyesore on the block and make it beautiful again.”

Holland, Kentwood, and Wyoming mandate inspections of single-family rental homes.  Although these inspections are costly, they ensure that the properties continue to satisfy the codes.

To learn more about the approaches used within West Michigan, please visit: http://www.mlive.com/business/west-michigan/index.ssf/2011/07/west_michigan_cities_find_ways.html