Lansing uses land bank to develop abandoned homes

This home on Roy Street in Lansing was built by Habitat for Humanity.

File photo

LANSING — A total of 11 foreclosed properties in Lansing will become part of an effort throughout the south suburbs to remove blight and restore buildings and residences to the tax base.

The Village Board recently approved an agreement with the South Suburban Land Bank Development Authority. The village will pursue deeds to the properties in the court system on condition of abandonment.

“It would really be a great win for the village, obviously, to get these 11 problem properties back to good use,” said Travis Bandstra, director of economic development.

Building Commissioner T.J. Grossi, who put together the list, said one example of those properties was a home on Chicago Avenue. The occupant died and the family couldn’t afford the property.

“There was no mortgage on the home and the property was abandoned, so there’s no bank claiming ownership,” Grossi said. “So, what it’s created is a property that the village has had to maintain. We’ve maintained it since, I believe, 2009.”

Bandstra said at an April 19 committee of the whole meeting that the 11 properties have little hope of being put back onto the books without the land bank's help.

“In most cases, the banks no longer even have an interest in these properties,” Bandstra said. “They have unpaid bills and they’re just sitting there vacant, which obviously leads to a number of issues.”

Bandstra said the portion of vacant single-family homes in Lansing is only 1.5 percent, down from a peak of about 8 percent just a few years ago.

Land banks are a regional economic development tool for municipalities with limited ability and financial resources to legally hold, manage and develop foreclosed properties and get them back into productive use.

The South Suburban Land Bank Development Authority formed in 2012 and was made possible by a HUD Sustainable Communities Grant awarded to the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association in 2011. Membership includes 20 south suburban cities and villages.

The land bank incurs all of the legal cost associated with acquiring the deeds, Bandstra said.

“They’ll do the work, file the petitions. The village, though, is the one who has to actually do the initial acquisition,” Bandstra said. “Then, we would essentially deed the properties over to the land bank and put them through their program.”

The land bank has a network of investors, lenders, brokers and marketers to sell the properties to potential residents, business owners or developers who will renovate and/or demolish the blighted structures.

Bandstra said the legal acquisitions will take a few months.

“Putting these properties back to use will return residents to them, thereby strengthening neighborhoods, improving safety and putting the properties back on the tax roll. If this initiative is successful, we may explore other acquisitions,” Bandstra said.

Reporting like this is brought to you by a staff of experienced local journalists committed to telling the stories of your community. Support from subscribers is vital to continue our mission.