Some investors want changes made to Land Banks

A house that was bought by the Kent County Land Bank Authority, resold and then fixed up. (June 9, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – The Land Bank gets houses that people lost because they couldn’t pay the taxes and sell them to investors who are required to fix them up.

There are other investors who say the Land Bank is grabbing property they should have a chance to buy.

“Our goal is to say we do not need the Land Bank,” said real estate investor Rusty Richter.

There are people such as Richter who are lobbing Kent County Commissioners to get rid of the Land Bank.

“We have plenty of private free enterprise, private parties that go in and buy these properties. Fix ‘em up, repair them, sell them, put them back on the market and rent ‘em out,” said Richter.

Private investors don’t do much for fighting blight and boosting economic development, according to Land Bank officials on Monday’s tour. Officials say they control who gets the tax foreclosed houses and what they do with them.

The Land Bank says only 35 investors who bought 455 properties in the county tax auction got building permits to fix them up.

“So what that means is A, either they weren’t being fixed up or B, they were being fixed up without permits,” said David Allen, with the Kent County Land Bank Authority.

What riles critics the most is that the Kent County Land Bank has found a way to be first in line. State law lets the County Treasurer hand houses back to the city government and passes them to the Land Bank, before investors can buy them at auction.

State Representative Ken Yonker of Caledonia is trying to get the rest of the legislature to put a stop to it. He wants to put private investors back at the head of the line to buy tax foreclosed property and put the Lank Bank in the rear.

“We are trying in the state to create a healthy, strong economy in this state that has been beat up for the last decade and now we gotta have another layer of government that we as business owners have to compete with. You can’t compete with that,” said Rep. Ken Yonker. “First of all, they should always put that property up for the private sector to take and put back into the market.”

Yonker doesn’t know how far such a move will get and says there are a lot of different ideas passing around the state capitol.

At the same, there are other people who think the Land Banks around the state are doing good work.

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