Flint, MI– In August, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation announced they would use $1 million to fund eight projects voted on by Flint residents. 

Yesterday, the foundation granted close to half of that amount to the Genesee County Land Bank for the purpose of reducing blight in the city of Flint. 

The $448,029 grant will fund three of the eight projects residents voted on which were related to demolishing blighted structures:

  • Demolish vacant houses that are beyond repair | $150,553
  • Take down properties that have been burned | $139,378
  • Demolish homes listed on the City’s Property Portal that are designated as needing demolition but currently no funds are available | $158,098

“During our community conversations last fall, residents expressed growing frustration over blight. They then showed with their votes just how important the issue is to them,” said Ridgway White, president and CEO of the Mott Foundation. “We’re eager to continue working with the community to fight blight and strengthen the city’s neighborhoods.”

The Land Bank’s Executive Director Michael Freeman said with that grant, they should be able to demolish 30-35 properties.  

Residents will have the opportunity to choose the properties that get demolished by filling out a survey that asks questions about which areas should be prioritized.

The survey asks questions like: How important is it to prioritize demolition of blighted houses directly next to occupied houses?  How important is it to prioritize blighted houses close to open schools for demolition? 

Once the results of the survey are in, Freeman said that ideally, demolition would start in spring, and be completed by June. 

A blighted property in Flint’s second ward. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

“We want it to be a community-driven effort to find out what the community prioritizes and where neighbors want to see Mott invest their funds,” Freeman said. “That’s going to become the new standard for us to determine, when we get future demolition resources, where we allocate those funds.” 

Blight is a huge problem in Flint, and Freeman said it’s a problem that “has grown exponentially over the years.”

“The city of Flint is built out for more than 200,000 people and we have less than 100,000,” Freeman said. “We have surplus housing at a low value…so we try to demolish structures that are plaguing neighborhoods.” 

The Land Bank owns 13,500 properties, which is about 28% of the city. Since 2004, Freeman said they have demolished 8,300 structures. In the last fiscal year, they demolished 270.

But there’s a lot more to go. 

Freeman said there are 4,706 blighted properties in Flint, spread all over but mostly in the Northwest quadrant, that are candidates for demolition. The Land Bank owns 2,922 of them. 

“To demolish everything in our portfolio would probably take $42 million,” Freeman said. 

He said the Land Bank just spent almost $68 million in Hardest Hit Fund (HHF) grants from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, and that they are looking for additional funds that could be used for demolition. 

“But demolition is only one part of the equation,” Freeman said. “We want reinvestment to happen.”

A blighted property in Flint’s second ward. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Demolishing a property helps the neighborhood look clean and nice, and provides the opportunity for future development, Freeman said. He said the Land Bank works with a number of different groups who come in and do community gardens or build new housing if the person adjacent to the property doesn’t want to purchase the lot.

“We try to work with neighborhoods to see what they want to see happen.” he said. “Ideally someone would take over the lot and use it. We see some of the best property maintenance happen that way.”

The deadline for completing the survey about which properties should be demolished is Nov. 30. The Land Bank will share updates on its website and Facebook page.

Amy Diaz is a journalist hailing from St. Petersburg, FL. She has written for multiple local newspapers in her hometown before becoming a full-time reporter for Flint Beat. When she’s not writing you...