'Our role is not done,' says Kent County Land Bank chairman

Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, chairman of the Kent County Land Bank Authority, said there always will be a role for the Kent County Land Bank, which puts blighted and abandoned property back on the market.

April 25, 2017

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By: Jim Harger

GRAND RAPIDS, MI - West Michigan's housing market may be one of the hottest in the country with buyers scrambling to find houses amidst rising prices.

But Kent County Treasurer Ken Parrish, chairman of the Kent County Land Bank Authority, said there always will be a role for the Kent County Land Bank, which puts blighted and abandoned property back on the market.

"There will always be blighted property, there will always be foreclosures," said Parrish at a news conference on Tuesday, April 25, following the release of a study that praised the land bank for creating $42.8 million in economic activity and creating 266 jobs over the past four years.

The study by Michigan State University's Land Policy Institute concluded the land bank generated $1.77 in the regional economy for every dollar it spent to acquire and rehab property. 

Homes within 500 feet of completed land bank activity resulted in a sales price increase of $7,064 per home, the study said.

This year, Parrish said his office expects to process 76 tax-foreclosed properties, roughly the same as last year. More than 40 of those properties are in the city of Grand Rapids, which has consigned them to the land bank in recent years.

Parrish was responding to a recent position paper by the Grand Rapids Association of Realtors that suggested the land bank had outlived its usefulness and was competing with the private sector as a quasi-governmental entity.

Created in 2009 during the Great Recession, the land bank took over abandoned properties after their owners stopped paying taxes and sold them to investors and homeowners who pledged to make improvements.

While city officials have praised the land bank for reviving the housing market, it has raised the ire of private developers and landlords who wanted to purchase the abandoned properties at auction.

 Parrish said the MSU study pointed to several changes the land bank could adopt to improve its mission of returning blighted and dilapidated property to the tax rolls.

 "Our role is not done. It may be changing, but it's not done."" he said, adding that the bank's strategic plan may be tweaked as a result of the findings. "We will not rest on our laurels."

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Land Policy Research Program

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