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Buildable lots among land bank initiatives

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Hilary Farrell
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The Kent County Land Bank eyes creative solutions to a local lack of affordable housing.

"So this year our focus will be on providing affordable homes to the market, and doing probably more renovations ourselves."

David de Velder is the director of real estate development for the Kent County Land Bank.

"And doing that in as quick a manner as possible, to bring properties to market with the lack of inventory in the market right now."

In a presentation to city officials, de Velder says the bank continues to hit new all-time inventory lows. He says they went from about 150 properties in 2013 to about a third of that more recently.

Which is a good thing in many ways – the land bank is a receivership for properties in tax foreclosure. It works to rehabilitate houses and get them back on the market with an emphasis on neighborhood stabilization and affordability.

But with Grand Rapids’ lack of housing stock – particularly, affordable housing – de Velder says the bank is looking at creative ways to increase available opportunities.

One of those is selling vacant, buildable parcels.

De Velder says they have 63 lots they’re looking to take to market in July.

"The biggest challenge is going to be getting the construction done in a timely manner and as affordable as possible. Construction costs are very high right now.

"But it is an opportunity – I think the city can partner with us in that."

Affordable housing is a focus for the current commission, with work including the city’s Great Housing Strategies and creation of a new task force.

And the commission has additional expertise with Third Ward Commissioner David Allen, who is also executive director of the land bank. His term began this year.

Ideas pitched at Tuesday’s meeting included increased use of tax incentives, partnering with agencies to help lower construction costs and establishing a housing land trust.

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