City mulls brownfield amendment


The Grand Rapids City Commission is considering a brownfield plan amendment for five tax-foreclosed properties to contribute to the city’s affordable housing inventory.

The five properties are 922 Benjamin Ave. SE, 333 Brown St. SE, 921 Hazen St. SE, 1019 Crosby St. NW and 632 Crescent St. NE.

All the properties have been foreclosed for nonpayment of taxes. The properties qualify for inclusion in a brownfield plan as they are tax foreclosed and are owned and under the control of the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

The Kent County treasurer had foreclosed on the five properties in July 2019. The city acquired the properties from the county and subsequently conveyed them to the Kent County Land Bank Authority under a property transfer and service provision agreement. During the period of its ownership, the KCLBA is providing certain services for the property, including quieting title, and is responsible for all aspects of ownership of the property.

The city will re-acquire the property from the KCLBA upon completion of all services required under the agreement and after the city commission considers approval of the amendment. Upon taking ownership of the property in July, staff began to work to develop projects at the individual properties with nonprofit housing development partners.

Each property will be required to result in high-quality affordable housing for households earning 80% or less of area median income for homeownership, and 60% or less of AMI for rental. The majority of the properties will be used for homeownership opportunities.

Through the amendment and subsequent loan agreements, the Grand Rapids Brownfield Redevelopment Authority can provide up to $20,000 to each property to pay for or reimburse the costs of eligible activities. The investment will provide a subsidy intended to make affordable housing projects feasible.

Lead inspection and risk assessments, lead hazard remediation, demolition, costs to clear or quiet title, asbestos and mold remediation, and public infrastructure improvements are included in the amendment, as well. Costs for all of these activities will be eligible for reimbursement, the terms of which would be defined in the loan agreements, a template of which is attached to the amendment. The loan disbursements would be made from the local brownfield revolving fund, and repayment would be made through taxes captured from the completed projects for a period of 15 years.

This is the second year of the program, and the number of available houses has decreased significantly. In 2018, the authority approved a plan amendment and loan agreements authorizing investments of $13,600 for up to 16 properties. Eleven of those projects are underway or have been completed, and four additional projects are being evaluated or are pending sales to nonprofit partners. 

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