Land bank stocks up on tax-foreclosed properties


The Kent County Land Bank Authority buys tax-foreclosed properties and sells them to buyers who meet the agency’s redevelopment conditions. Photo via

The Kent County Land Bank Authority Board agreed to buy 197 tax-foreclosed properties from four municipalities on Wednesday, with 163 of those located within the city of Grand Rapids.

The land bank also will purchase 32 lots on the stalled Bedford Falls residential development in the Village of Sparta, a condemned house on the East Beltline in Plainfield Township and another vacant residence on Wildwood Street in Nelson Township.

Buying all the properties will cost the land bank about $1.3 million, with $1.182 million going for the homes and vacant parcels in Grand Rapids. The agreement the land bank has with the city calls for payment by July 19.

“I do believe we have enough cash to do this on all the properties,” said Ken Parrish, KCLBA chairman and Kent County treasurer.

The land bank also will take possession of two donated homes. One is in Kentwood, while the other is in Grandville.

KCLBA board member Sharon Brinks, also a Kentwood city commissioner, questioned if the agency knew enough about the properties to go forward with a purchase. She also wondered whether the land bank was being pushed too quickly into taking action.

“I may have missed something here about how we’re going to analyze how the properties came to us,” said Brinks.

Parrish said the purchase agreements follow the board’s policy, and the properties were vetted more thoroughly by the local governments this year than the parcels were last year at the county.

KCLBA board member and Grand Rapids City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss said the land bank’s 15-member Advisory Council also reviewed the tax-foreclosure list before the properties came to the board.

Brinks also expressed concern about the risk the land bank was taking by purchasing all these properties, especially the bundle from Grand Rapids. The city’s agreement with the land bank clearly states that if the agency doesn’t dispose of all the properties, it can’t return any to the city.

“The city of Grand Rapids is putting all the burden of the properties on the land bank. Is that fair?” she asked.

City Economic Development Director Kara Wood responded by saying the city is giving the land bank half of the property-tax revenue over five years for the parcels the agency puts back on the tax roll. Wood added that the tax revenue loss from up to 163 properties is the “skin the city has in the game.”

“I don’t disagree that there is risk,” said KCLBA Executive Director Dave Allen. “But there is risk in real estate development and we’re a real estate development company.”

Allen said the organization expects to take possession of the properties by July 22.

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