State land bank does local networking

BARAGA — Officials from the Michigan Land Bank recently made their first visit to the western Upper Peninsula in a bid to form local connections and work with county land banks.

“We just haven’t built that relationship, and that’s the main goal of this trip is with our four western U.P. land banks to build a good relationship and make sure we have that connection,” said Josh Burgett, director of the Michigan Land Bank.

Land ends up in the hands of a Michigan land bank when it goes into tax foreclosure. Once it goes there, the goal is to get it out and productive again, either sold to go back on the tax roll or utilized by the community in some way, like as a park, Burgett explained. Blight elimination is often a driving force behind the creation of a land bank.

“When we own it, and we manage it, it doesn’t have any value,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s not worth anything. It’s just not providing any value to the community,” he said.

Each property is different and requires a different approach. The same is true of each land bank.

Burgett hopes the recent visit with local land banks will provide the state with unique information about local interests and stakeholders, and for the county land banks, details on resources and information the state land bank has on hand.

So far the responses have been positive.

“I always learn from them, because they know their local community better than we ever could,” Burgett said.

In recent years, the state land bank has been taking on more properties than it disposes of due to tax foreclosures, but the increase is slowing down.

The state bank removed more properties than it took in for the first time this year, Burgett said.

Long term, he is planning to form a database that includes county land bank properties, so buyers can locate them all in one place, where Burgett encourages shoppers to consider land bank properties.

“Land banks by nature are not necessarily motivated by a sales price. Our first goal foremost is to get the property back on the tax roll,” he said. “… You’re able to have some support from your local government on your project, so it just comes with a lot of benefits if I’m a consumer buying property.”