Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tax Foreclosures Translate Into More Land Bank Holdings in Flint

An abandoned house on Humboldt Street in Flint's Civic Park neighborhood.

After the latest round of tax foreclosures, 14 percent of all parcels in Flint are now owned by the Genesee County Land Bank.

The land bank concept was made a reality in Michigan by Dan Kildee, now the Democratic U.S. congressman representing Flint. It was partly a response to Kildee's frustration with speculators treating Flint houses like disposable property and his desire to demolish derelict, abandoned housing, discussed in my profile of Kildee for Slate:
For many years, Kildee had no real way of making this vision—Utopian or not—a reality. As the treasurer of Genesee County, which includes Flint, he oversaw a tax foreclosure process that often took seven years to complete, and private speculators always had first dibs at public auctions. Kildee simply couldn't get his hands on very many abandoned houses. So he helped craft legislation in Michigan in the '90s that enabled public "land banks" to quickly gain control of delinquent property—and the revenue it often generates. Once it acquires a property, the land bank can sell it, rent it, or demolish it. It also collects interest penalties and principal from property owners behind on their taxes, rather than selling off the debt at a reduced rate to private investors, as many municipalities do. 
The flow of property to the land bank isn't likely to dry up anytime soon. Ron Fonger of The Flint Journal reports:
The number of properties in foreclosure is almost exactly the same as 2012, when the county took on another 2,772 parcels for failure to pay 2009 property taxes.

[County Treasurer Deb] Cherry said the large number of vacant properties in Flint will likely keep the number of foreclosures consistent for several more years.

"The good thing is, it at least has stabilized. At least the number did not go up, (but) we see the same pattern — it's maintaining," Cherry said.

1 comment:

  1. I must have pedaled my bike by this house hundreds of times in the 1950's. Who'd have thought it would end up looking like this.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at