Overtime, disinvestment in neighborhoods means more than a few abandoned buildings or lots. As property owners, the CCLBA grapples with issues of safety, aesthetics, funding, and property reuse. Residents and community members have expressed a desire for more housing options, homebuyer education, skilled trades training, and property ownership opportunities. To support sustainable change, we are not just focused on our property but rather how our property fits into the community. Disruption at the neighborhood level often results in a breakdown in the community’s ecosystem. While ecosystems can be composed of different things, it often includes housing, new development, and expanded opportunities and choices for residents.
A good example of what this can look like is the housing supply shortage, which was further exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Since 2020, the average price of a single-family home increased 18% while the overall supply of available houses on the market decreased. At the same time, a median income resident in Battle Creek could only afford to purchase 60% of a single-family home. What does that mean? A failed equation for our families in need of housing. What can the Land Bank do about that?
0%increase in the average price for a single-family home compared to 2020
CCLBA expertise can help create opportunities and housing choices
We can do several things that help move the needle. First, in its professional associations with the Michigan Association of Land Banks (MALB) and the Center for Community Progress (CCP), the Land Bank worked to document and quantify needs countywide and frame those within the larger context of what is happening around the state. Staff then worked with MALB and CCP to translate that work into a successful funding ask at the state level.
Additionally, the Land Bank analyzed its inventory, specifically considering how it could be leveraged to interrupt the challenges of increased housing costs. Resolving title issues would allow transfer of properties without passing along a burden and would open more properties for local development. If the Land Bank cleared environmental concerns and site preparation, that work will lead to construction ready sites.
Bolstering this approach with data compiled in the work with MALB and CCP, as well as local data from the City of Battle Creek’s Neighborhood Intel System, the Land Bank created local funding requests to support a shift to pre-development work. This pivot in focus, and subsequent funding support, allows us to address gaps in the local housing and property development ecosystem.
The Land Bank is working to promote networking within Calhoun County among the construction trades and also to actively support housing coaching. The newly formed Calhoun Builders Connection group encourages more partnerships, workforce development, mentoring, apprenticeship, within the skilled trades, developer, and construction fields. For housing coaching support, the Land Bank hopes to add a new countywide position that will identify needs at the county level. The goal of all this work is to meet people where they are, make connections, and strengthen the local ecosystem to create more attainable housing options.