Carrying the work from the Defining the Need section above to tangible execution on the ground requires focus and funding. The CCLBA’s expertise in creating data driven funding requests have been well received not only for Calhoun County, but also across Michigan. Our work to successfully redefined blight to include predevelopment hurdles and structure stabilization was key to securing new funding from the state, providing significant project-based funding to Land Banks across Michigan.
Here at home, the Land Bank owns over 650 vacant residential parcels across the county, a portion of which can be used for infill development, i.e., housing. Title work, environmental concerns and physical site clearance are being addressed to make sites construction ready as well as to alleviate these burdens for new owners when transferring properties. Environmental assessments are supported by grant funding. Further funding from the Calhoun County Board of Commissioners through the American Rescue Plan Allocations (ARPA) is also supporting this work.
Additionally, thanks to support from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, a community driven microcosm of this specific work is happening in Battle Creek’s Washington Heights neighborhood. Funding to support the level of interaction that is happening in this neighborhood is incredibly rare. The work will not only benefit its target area, but the learnings will transfer to all of Calhoun County.
The partnership for work in the Washington Heights area came about as the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s support for community-created neighborhood stabilization strategies, lined up with the Land Bank’s own work and large inventory in that area. The Land Bank owns 257, mostly vacant, parcels in Washington Heights which presents an opportunity for creative reuse and intervention that support the goals of the residents.
The Land Bank is working with a citizen advisory committee on this project to identify barriers to ownership, understand history, and take time to consider broader issues facing this community which is home to a significant population of color. Homeownership amongst communities of color was identified as the number one priority for the area in past work by the city. Residents struggle with depressed property values, vacancy and deferred property maintenance and housing cost burden. More information on this initiative can be found on our Washington Heights page.
Accessing resources to support work on Land Bank properties is critical to progress in local communities. The ability to leverage properties, while they are in public ownership in partnership with the goals of the communities they are located in, is a measure of success. Getting beyond obvious and immediate needs to identifying the most impactful activities for the Land Bank is where real change can happen. To move that needle, the Land Bank has been a consistent innovator, pushing boundaries and definitions and then pursuing and securing targeted resources to execute projects in Calhoun County.