State land bank going green, offering vacant lots up as community gardens
The State of Michigan Land Bank Fast Track Authority is making its inventory of nearly 7,000 vacant lots statewide -- 6,000 in Detroit alone -- available as community gardens via its Garden for Growth program.
"Our goals, in addition to finding productive uses for these vacant plots, is to support the Governor's Urban Food Initiative," says Carrie Lewand-Monroe, the Michigan Land Bank's executive director. "We're hoping to help allow folks in urban areas to access fresh, healthy food."
The way it works is that any community member can apply to garden a lot in the Michigan Land Bank for $50 for one year. At that point, participants are able to put in an application to purchase the land.
This lease-first approach is considered a "best practice" for programs of this type for two reasons: It allows time for the garden to be established and it keeps it tax-free for the first year. The Land Bank is willing to flexible with lease terms; it is working with The Greening of Detroit on five parcels that will be leased for five years.
Any kind of garden is eligible: native plants, flowers and vegetables -- even a park, says Lewand-Monroe. All gardeners will be connected with the Greening of Detroit's Garden Resource Program for classes and planting material.
Lewand-Monroe explains why 7,000 of the Michigan Land Bank's 8,000 properties are vacant lots: because they are all foreclosed properties that date back to 1999, which was when tax laws changed. "There aren't as many structures as the county would have," she says.
They also administer a Side Lot program for vacant lots that are adjacent to occupied residences. To search for a property, use the Land Bank's web site Search for Property feature. The application for the Garden for Growth program is also available on the site.
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