- Associated Press - Sunday, February 28, 2016

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. (AP) - The Muskegon County Land Bank and the city of Muskegon Heights tore down 61 abandoned homes during 2015 to fight blight.

The work started in July 2015. Muskegon County Land Bank Director Tim Burgess said most of the homes demolished were in the west half of the city. Another 35 homes in the northeast quarter of the city are being prepped for demolition by undergoing asbestos abatement, The Muskegon Chronicle (https://bit.ly/1KI4m9I ) reported.

“The idea behind that was to eliminate problem properties,” Burgess said. “We (also) want to keep the burden off the local units of government.”

Officials hope to tear down as many at 200 homes in Muskegon Heights before they’re finished with a federal grant program.

The city in December 2014 was awarded a $1.8 million federal Hardest Hit grant with the Muskegon County Land Bank Authority acting as its community partner to hold the titles to the properties and help re-develop them.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury created the Hardest Hit Fund in 2010 to provide targeted aid to homeowners in those states most affected by the housing market crash. The fund is focused exclusively on residential properties.

Burgess is confident of using up the $1.8 million in grant money. About 130 Muskegon Heights homes recently went unsold after a tax auction, and roughly three-fourths of them are candidates for demolition.

“We’ve got a whole new crop,” Burgess said.

Nunica-based Melching Inc. submitted bids winning the first two packages of demolition work. No money was spent to purchase the property. The homes were owned by Muskegon Heights, or Land Bank by way of the County Treasurer’s office, because of unpaid taxes.

The demolitions go hand in hand with a revitalization and blight elimination plan that Michigan State University Students developed last year.

“The Land Bank and city of Muskegon Heights have been working very well together on this,” Burgess said.

In addition to the Hardest Hit demolitions, the Land Bank has knocked down eleven more — five in Muskegon, six in Muskegon Heights — during the last year using funds from the Land Bank, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, and the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

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Information from: The Muskegon Chronicle, https://www.mlive.com/muskegon


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