Land Bank hits landmark sales

By Sam Inglot

Mayor has high praise for city’s partnership with county

Thursday, Sept. 6 — The Ingham County Land Bank is having a record-breaking year.

In the first eight months of 2012, the countywide authority has sold 38 homes in the county, 22 of which are in the city of Lansing. More homes were sold this year than any other year since its founding in 2005.

Since then, the Land Bank has sold 126 homes — 104 of which are in the city limits. Of those properties, 36 were sold to people who previously lived outside of the city or state.

The Land Bank uses grant money to purchase abandoned and foreclosed houses that have been vacant for more than a year. The houses are then renovated and resold. The Land Bank board is comprised of Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing and Ingham County commissioners Deb Nolan, Brian McGrain, Rebecca Bahar-Cook and Debbie DeLeon.

The vacant, often dilapidated houses become an eyesore in the surrounding neighborhood, said Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero. He added that empty properties can become magnets for crime and can drive down property values of surrounding homes.

“They’re a big problem because they tear down the whole neighborhood,” he said.

Bernero and Schertzing, who chairs the Land Bank, were at a double open house for two Land Bank-owned properties this morning on the 200 block of Mount Hope Avenue in Lansing. Bernero had nothing but high praises for the organization and Schertzing as he stood in the living room of 213 Mount Hope Ave., a nearly 100-year-old, two-story home that had been renovated.

“The city has an incredible relationship with the treasurer and Land Bank,” Bernero said. “Not every county has a Land Bank — all sorts of cities could benefit from them. We’re very fortunate.”

Bernero said one positive aspect of Schertzing’s leadership is that he understands the importance of a prosperous “urban core.”

“This is the antithesis of urban sprawl,” he said, echoing criticisms he made to City Pulse on Tuesday about Eastwood Towne Center in Lansing Township.

The Land Bank is a model for cooperative regionalism and partnerships between the county and city, Schertzing and Bernero said.

“We’re all in this together,” Schertzing said. He added that the continued success of the Land Bank would heavily depend on what kind of federal funding it can receive.