One of the cornerstones of the Land Bank’s mission is to create affordable housing opportunities. We’ve done this in part by completing rehabs of vacant and previously blighted homes in Kalamazoo. Some of these rehabs are a part of our rental program that provides quality, well-kept rental properties that are affordable. We’ve also built new homes in areas that haven’t seen new residential construction in decades. These projects are typically funded by grants or private donations, as the cost of renovating older or blighted homes or constructing new homes in Kalamazoo’s core neighborhoods exceeds the market value of the home once it is completed. We see quality, affordable housing as a part of an overall targeted reinvestment strategy that utilizes the Land Bank’s full toolkit to attack housing problems in struggling neighborhoods.
The Kalamazoo County Land Bank’s latest endeavor is the Eastside Gateway Project. This project will include seven net-zero ready small homes and a community pocket park. The park will have a walkway, art, native plantings while serving as a visible and welcoming entryway into the East Side. The small homes of Eastside Gateway Project will be highly energy efficiency. The small homes are built extremely well with materials and equipment — lighting, heating, cooling, plumbing and insulation — that reduce living costs while making the homes more comfortable and more affordable long-term. The homes are called “zero-energy ready” because they are ready to be converted, with solar panels, to homes that have virtually no energy maintenance costs. As of April 2019, three homes have been complete and one more is underway. The other three homes will be completed by the end of 2019 in partnership with Habitat for Humanity.
In 2011, The Land Bank partnered with the neighborhood and local architects to host a charrette to dream up what was possible on a one acre blighted site with several unsafe structures in a key corridor of Kalamazoo. Since then, the Kalamazoo Land Bank has removed blighted structures and activated green space with a pollinator garden and art elements. This project is in partnership with Hollander Development Corporation who is planning a mixed-use and mixed-income development. The planned development will provide 48 units of affordable high quality housing that will be certified LEED platinum. This project is expected to break ground in 2019.
The 2012-2013 NSP-funded Marketplace development is a great example of this targeted reinvestment strategy at work in struggling neighborhoods, which resulted in 23 beautiful, affordable homes being built and sold across the street from the Kalamazoo Farmers Market in the Edison neighborhood. This multi-million dollar project, paired with a full-scale renovation program in other core neighborhoods like the Northside and Eastside, was possible because of the federal grant program, the Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP), and was achieved in partnership with the City of Kalamazoo. We’ve also partnered with the City on the HOME program to renovate three houses on Clinton Avenue. These previously foreclosed and blighted homes were completely renovated inside and out, and were sold to low- to moderate-income homebuyers, returning them to the tax rolls and providing beautiful homes for new Edison residents.
The Land Bank focuses on creating high-quality affordable housing that will stand the test of time, and stabilize blocks that lack quality housing. Rehabbed properties are then returned to the tax rolls when they are sold to buyers, many of whom are given the opportunity to own a home for the first time. Renovations are only possible as funding is available, so Land Bank homes that we can’t rehab are sold through the Responsible Disposition program. Rehabbed homes are posted in News when they are ready for sale, and listed on the MLS with a local realtor.