Flint, MI—In its second annual ‘State of the Land Bank’ address, the Genesee County Land Bank Authority recapped its work in economic development, blight elimination, and property maintenance while calling for more funding.

“We are constantly seeking additional funding,” executive director Michael Freeman said in his opening remarks of the pre-recorded video.

While the land bank’s 2020 address was delivered largely by Freeman, he appeared for just a few minutes to define the organization and its goals before GCLBA staff and partners highlighted recent successes.

“I actually watched one of my older brothers put every one of his children in a house through the land bank,” said first-time home buyer Manuel Woods, who called GCLBA’s ‘Featured Homes’ program “completely simple.”

The roughly hour-long series of testimonials also included the voices of people who work with GCLBA’s ‘Clean & Green’ program, which partners with community groups on upkeeping clusters of vacant lots.

“We’re maintaining about 32 lots every three weeks,” said Nick Kedovary of the Carriage Town Historic Neighborhood Association, one of the land bank’s 64 current Clean & Green partners. “These green spaces—or these homes that have been demoed to create a green space—it’s almost like a blank slate to restart again.” 

Aside from partner interviews, GCBLA staff shared more specific details on the land bank’s recent work.

Christina Kelly, ​​Director of Planning & Neighborhood Revitalization, explained that GCLBA “along with a whole coalition of partners” had capped, or covered, 60 acres of land formerly known as ‘Chevy In the Hole’ to avoid spread of the site’s contamination.

“There is about 1,300 trees planted across the site that will sequester about 31,000 tons of carbon from the air, when they’re mature, per year,” added Faith Finholm, Grants Manager, in a voiceover. “They’ll also sequester about 76,000 gallons a year of water runoff preventing that water from running off into the Flint River.”

This summer, Governor Whitmer announced plans for the site to be incorporated into Genesee County’s first state park.

Kelly also noted the GCLBA has demolished 196 properties in the last fiscal year.

“Despite the progress we have made in eliminating blight in Flint and Genesee County, we still have more than 1,700 blighted houses in neighborhoods that are in need of demolition,” she said.

“Eliminating hazards in neighborhoods is a very high priority for the land bank, and we are committed to finding funding for, from any and all sources,” continued Kelly. “We look forward to the possibility securing funding from City of Flint, Genesee County, the State of Michigan, and others in the coming year to demolish these blighted structures.”

A blighted house at 1816 Woodlin Dr. in Flint. The house was one of 37 the Genesee County Land Bank selected to demolish this year. (KT Kanazawich | Flint Beat)

Duane Bickford, Director of Property Maintenance, said that his team had mowed 19,000 lots in Flint with over 2,000 more “in the out-county,” adding that his crew also “went through 150 tons of garbage” during cleanups this year.

The video address concluded with awards to top-performing Clean & Green partners—My Brother’s Keeper, Brennan Park Renovation Fund, Reaching Out Love Everyday (R.O.L.E.), Bel-Aire Woods Association, and Urban Renaissance Center—and a sign off from Freeman.

“Our partners have spoken, and they have made it clear that the state of the land bank is strong,” he said. “We are grateful to all of our partners and funders who work alongside us to eliminate blight, strengthen neighborhoods, and revitalize our community.” 

A video of GCLBA’s full Second Annual ‘State of the Land Bank’ address can be found here.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....