Tackling Vacancy and Abandonment Strategies and Impacts after the Great Recession
Author(s): Center for Community Progress
The landscape of Flint, Michigan reflects the dramatic demographic and economic shifts of the city over the last century. A 34-square-mile American legacy city, Flint’s population and workforce climed steeply during the first half of the twentieth century, before decreasing steadily over the second half. While flint is home to approximately 100,000 residents, it was built to house almost double that, at its peak in 1960. As a result, vacant and abandoned properties exist at an exceptional scale in Flint today.
There were more than 23,000 vacant properties in Flint in 2015, representing 42% of all properties in the city. The Flint community has countered these challenges incrementally at times and boldly at others, particularly through tax foreclosure reform. Flint is nationally recognized for leading change in this area, in the late 1990s, officials from Flint spearheaded an effort that ultimately led to comprehensive reform of Michigan’s property tax enforcement and foreclosure laws. in the early 2000s, these leaders expanded upon tax foreclosure reform by pushing for state law that opened the door for the creation of landbanks. In 2004, the Genesee County Land Bank Authority opened in downtown Flint, as the first land bank in Michigan. Each of these reforms shaped mechanisms for the conveyance of tax-foreclosed properties. Nearly twenty years after tax foreclosure reform and more than a decade after the beginning of land banking in Michigan, debates about the conveyance of tax-foreclosed properties continue. This report seeks to inform those debates.
This report exmaines and compares the two existing systems used for conveying tax-foreclosed residential properties in Flint, Michigan — the Genesee County Treasurer’s public auction and the Genesee County Land Bank Authority. We analyze four indicators related to tax-foreclosed residential properties: change in structure conditions, demolition rates, occupancy status, and repeat tax-foreclosure rates. In addition, the report analyzes the revenue generated from property tax sales through each conveyance system.
This analysis finds that, for the properties examined, transfers to the Genesee County Land Bank Authority demonstrate an advantage over public auction sales in terms of removing blighted structures through demolition, advancing property occupancy, and generating property tax payments and revenue through sales. This report informs local leaders as they consider mechanisms for conveying tax-foreclosed residential properties in Flint. It also provides leaders outside Flint with additional perspective to examine their own conveyance systems.
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