Fighting Blight: A Tour of Hardest Hit Blighted Homes and a Land Bank Renovation

This morning, Clara and I woke up bright and early to meet Ingham County Lank Bank employee, Rawley Van Fossen. He graciously took us to a demolition, along with tours of blighted homes that will be demolished and a renovated home. But, before I get into those details, let me explain the Blight Elimination Program and how that integrates into Cities of Service’s Love Your Block blueprint and grant.

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) awarded the City of Lansing with a grant of 6.25 million in order to demolish tax-foreclosed, blighted homes. The City of Lansing decided to partner with the Land Bank, since the City has a successful partnership with Land Bank and the Land Bank has the history and manpower to help carry out the demolitions. The City and the Land Bank chose five areas to focus the Hardest Hit Blight Elimination funds and over the course of the next year, about  250 homes will go down. See a map of the blighted homes going down updated regularly to show the upcoming groupings of houses going down.

Most of the lots will become side lot sales–meaning the neighbors next to the property will have the opportunity to buy the lot and expand their yard spaces. Another opportunity exists in connection with the Love Your Block grant. For properties that aren’t set aside for a side lot sale or another purpose, a community has the ability to apply for a Love Your Block mini-grant in order to transform the empty lot into something the community needs–from a perennial flower garden to a butterfly garden, there are numerous possibilities.

Now, back to 7 am. Clara, Rawley, and I were joined by Land Bank Grant Manager, Roxanne Case, to watch a contractor take down a home deemed structurally deficient. As the demolition was about to start, a neighbor stopped to ask what was happening and then after explaining, she proceeded to state that the home has been abandoned for several years and that it was good to see that something was finally going to be done. After some tree removal to get the excavator through, the demolition started. We watched as a home, that most likely took a couple months to build, was taken down in less than thirty minutes. While I can try to explain the sounds of crunching and snapping, along with the fresh wood smell that filled my nostrils, I’d rather just show you the pictures of the demolition, so you can see the excitement for yourself.

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After the demolition, Rawley took us on a tour of a couple homes that will be going down shortly. We saw where there were holes in the ceilings,wood was rotting, and experience the overall atmosphere of a blighted home. We were encompassed by many smells, dodged nails and knives on the floor, and avoided molds growing throughout the homes. Everything about these homes illuminated that they were tired, unkempt, and the land needed a new journey. The first home we visited didn’t fit into the architecture of the neighborhood and looked miles behind the other homes. Below are some pictures of the first home.

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We then moved forward to the second home. After this home is demolished, the City’s Planing office is going to build a new home–proving that there is hope in these spaces after these blighted homes go. The tragic part about the second home displayed that a family used to live in this home. There were several children’s toys left behind. Also in the kitchen, intricate tiling was atop the counters showing that in its prime, this home was quite beautiful. In the entryway, the contractors had to remove the tiling due to asbestos. Poisoned materials are always removed before the demolition, so that the particles do not enter the air and into someone’s lungs. Here are pictures of the second demolition.

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Finally, to end our tour on a happier, less desolate note, Rawley took us to a tax-foreclosed home that the Land Bank renovated. These are properties that are not judged as blighted that the Land Bank or City fixes up and sells at an affordable price to lower income individuals and families. The cost of renovation is about equal to building a new home, but they choose to renovate in order to keep the history and architecture of the house, so that it fits into the neighborhood.   To end this posting, I will show you pictures of the renovated home in order to fulfill your whimsy.

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