Land bank private sector Advisory Council supported


The Kent County Land Bank Authority board will meet this week to approve or disapprove Grand Rapids City Commission’s transfer of 163 tax-foreclosed properties to the Land Bank, which would pay $1.182 million for the properties based on back taxes, interest and fees.

The success of the land bank is qualified in its 2012 achievements, returning blighted properties to the tax rolls with partners in the nonprofit as well as for-profit sectors.

Still, the board authorized by a state act in 2003 has been criticized by the Kent County Taxpayers Alliance decrying land bank purchases of foreclosed properties, suggesting that it wrests those properties away from the private sector. 

In fact, however, the private sector is wholly engaged in the Land Bank Authority. The Land Bank Advisory Council was embraced and joined by 15 members representing neighborhood associations and industry professionals, including the Home Builders Association of Greater Grand Rapids, LINC neighborhood group, the East Hills Neighborhood Association, Nederveld Architects, Founders Bank and Huntington Bank. Further, those private entities have more than seven years to bid on properties in foreclosure.

The defining hallmark of West Michigan — and especially Grand Rapids — is the public-private partnerships that define this community’s continued rebirth, success and economic gains that mark the Taxpayers Alliance complaint as a self-serving tempest in a teapot.

Greg Conway, an executive vice president at Founders Bank & Trust and a member of the land bank’s Advisory Council also noted: “The present tax-sale format is not free market.” He explained that the buyers at the public auction are a specialized niche within the real estate market. “The land bank adds value to the private and nonprofit sectors, and does not compete with them.” 

Land Bank Authority Executive Director David Allen also noted the land bank requests just 7 percent of all properties on the foreclosure list.

Neighborhood associations have regarded the land bank as a neighborhood savior, especially in regard to so-called “slum lord” effects.

One must ask if the criticism is a public nuisance in the face of gains for the taxpayers and neighborhoods as the recession-ridden landscape is cleared to the benefit all Kent County taxpayers. The Business Journal finds agreement in the wisdom of the private sector Advisory Council of the Kent County Land Bank Association.

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