By Danielle Weitzman, CDAD Semester in Detroit Intern
On July 21st, CDAD was joined by Amber Elliott and Charity Dean from the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) for a brown bag discussion concerning the work being done at the DLBA, their Community Partnership Program, and the ways in which community members can better interact with the Land Bank. The Detroit Land Bank is a public authority that was created to acquire, hold, manage, develop and dispose of vacant and abandoned properties in the city. Currently, the DLBA owns approximately 96,000 parcels in Detroit. Of those parcels, approximately 6,000 homes are currently occupied and 60% are unoccupied homes or vacant properties.In an effort to encourage the purchasing and rehabilitation of these parcels, the DLBA created the Community Partnership Program for Detroit based non-profit organizations. This incentivizes community groups with reduced land prices to address issues of blight in their neighborhoods. Other DLBA programs for the acquisition of land are: the auction program, the side lot program, the occupy properties program, and the buyback program.
Meeting attendees were asked how they had previously interacted or not interacted with the Land Bank. CDAD members shared that they were unaware of the opportunities that came with becoming a community partner before buying properties. They shared frustrations with using the website to find properties and determine the title and tax issues of those properties. Concerns were also raised concerning who is becoming Community Partners and the lack of accountability those partners have to the neighborhood. The DLBA explained that the rules of the Land Bank are not favorable to large investors. Partners must be Michigan residents, licensed to do business in Michigan, or a future Michigan resident. Developers are checked before given properties for any previous history with foreclosed properties. Photos of the properties are required every 30 days, or the property is reclaimed by the Land Bank. They advocate for community engagement as an essential part of new development, especially with new community partners and residents.
The buyback program in particular is an example of the Land Bank’s efforts to support current Detroit homeowners. This program is for Detroiters who lost a property but is up to date on paying utilities and has done some rehab on the house. They are required to take a course to learn how to save to pay taxes. They save for 1 year and have monthly payment requirements as well as quarterly workshops on becoming a successful homeowner. They must maintain the exterior and pay the water bill. If they are successful, they can keep their home.
The Land Bank hopes to collaborate with CDAD in the future through the d[COM]munity mapping tool as they continue to build an online database of their properties.
The CDAD Brown Bag Lunch Meetings are informal discussions among CDAD members and supporters on specific topics that impact community development and our city. With the support of Citizens Bank, our 2016 Brown Bag series is focused on affordable housing initiatives, covering topics such as LITC, Inclusionary Housing, Community Land Trusts, and more!