When looking at an abandoned house, the average person sees chipped paint, cracked windows and red tags. But the Ingham County Land Bank sees an opportunity.
"We can take the worst house on the block and make it the best," says Ingham County Treasurer Eric Schertzing.
And they can do it for as little as a few thousand dollars. The county is buying tax-foreclosed properties and renovating them or building brand-new homes. They've already sold for, and at this rate, Schertzing says the county plans to continue building two per month.
By giving new life to old housing, like their latest project on the 900 block of N. Pennsylvania Ave., they hope to eliminate housing auctions, which often result in the creation of rental properties.
"When we sell these properties, we sell to owner occupants. We're taking rental out of the equation in the neighborhood we're working in," Schertzing says.
These renovations are also meant to take a chunk out of Lansing's more than 500 properties tagged as unlivable.
"We've got a partnership with the Land Bank and the city of Lansing," Schertzing says. "Mayor Bernero and his neighborhood development staff have asked us to make red-tagged homes a priority to renovate."
"When we refurbish a house and bring it back to productive use, it's a positive impact on the neighborhood," echoes Bob Johnson, Lansing director of planning and neighborhood development.
Johnson points to the "broken window" theory; improve one property, and the other homeowners will most likely follow suit. And even as rental properties and auctioned homes decrease with the Land Bank, he doesn't expect crime displacement.
"One step at a time, house by house," he says as the way to go about the housing changes.
Anyone can make an offer on these homes, but Schertzing says it's important for him to check the buyers' backgrounds. Both the homes and the buyers are investments for the county.
The house on N. Pennsylvania is running for just under $90,000.