What’s in a name? Land banks have operated throughout the State of Michigan for 15 years. If one happens to know about land banks it is usually from the work being done in Flint and Detroit where the local land bank authority owns tens of thousands of blighted problematic properties. If one has no idea what a land bank is, they often ask “Are you a bank that holds land?”
The fact is the legislation that enables land banks to exist states that “The Land Bank Act addresses a need to strengthen and revitalize the economy of this state and local units of government.” (Public Act 258 of 2003)
The Kent County Land Bank Authority (KCLBA) was developed in 2010 to help stabilize neighborhoods and encourage economic development in the face of the foreclosure crisis. From 2012 through 2016 the KCLBA’s primary focus was to ensure a positive outcome of tax foreclosed and blighted properties. Over these 4 years the KCLBA addressed over 500 such properties. According to the Michigan State University’s Land Policy Institutes’ study our work the economic impact of KCLBA’s work in the region was over $42,000,000, equating to a $1.70 in regional economic activity for every $1 spent.
As the KCLBA headed into 2017 it was clear that there was new challenges facing our region, the most significant being a historic shortage of homes available for sale or rent. A broad based group of stakeholders launched a new Strategic Plan to chart a new course for the KCLBA.
Two things became very clear to the strategic planning group: 1) The KCLBA has several tools that are unique to land banks that can be used to help deal with this housing crisis. 2) We needed to rebrand our organization to better reflect the unique work we do to “strengthen the economy of the local unit of government.
Kent County Land Bank is now InnovaLaB
In March 2018 the Kent County Land Bank’s Board of Directors, adopted the the Strategic Planning Committees recommendation to change our name to – InnovaLaB.
Ken Parrish, InnovaLaB Board Chair states, “This new brand is more than a new logo and colors, but a new approach to how we work as an organization. We are using this targeted approach to ensuring developers have the tools they need, while also assisting in the stability of the housing market for all families.”
The name, InnovaLaB was chosen to represent the innovation that is at the heart of the work that the organization is focused on. We understand that it will take a level of innovation to help solve this housing shortage issue. In fact, for a Land Bank, often the focus is on the demolition of blighted homes, or there is a focus on purchasing foreclosed homes. As a model, Land Banks must change to face this new crisis. Instead of demolition, Land Banks must focus on building new housing and helping developers bring new homes on the market, to increase the supply of housing at all levels.
A new mission and vision statement was also adopted to reflect the unique tools InnovaLaB has to offer.
Mission: InnovaLaB is a real estate development partner that offers an innovative toolbox for community transformation.
Vision: InnovaLaB offers unique redevelopment tools to local government, communities, and developers in transformative partnerships that further economic revitalization in Kent County.
InnovaLaB is still a land bank at its heart, that is why we have capitalized the L and the B in our name. La – land, and B – bank. This play ensures to our board and our constituents that we remain a trusted quasi-governmental body that is still focused on our original vision – to ensure Kent County is a premier place to live, work and play.