(Mark H. Stowers, July 1, 2017)
Hazel Park, MI – Jeff Campbell doesn’t sound like Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey character in It’s a Wonderful Life, but he sure does act like him. The Assistant City Manager of Hazel Park heads up the city’s CURE (Cities for Urban Revitalization and Enhancement) Program that buys tax problem homes and rehabs them for residents to purchase.
“Back in 2012 when the market hadn’t come close to recovering, the city of Hazel Park was still experiencing over 100 tax delinquent foreclosures a year,” Campbell said.
“A city can take a property for taxes owed prior to an auction under state law,” Campbell said. “What we did was started taking certain properties with the idea of rehabbing them, getting owner-occupants in them and improving the neighborhood and tax base. Getting housing prices up benefits everybody so when we have sales we have good comparables.”
Campbell noted that they needed to create a non-profit to handle the program and not the city. Land CURE began with four properties in 2013 and has rehabbed and sold more than 40 homes.
“They are all owner-occupants with the idea of getting new people in who might be priced out of Ferndale or Berkley and get them into a good house with a good value,” he said. “About 60-70 percent of the houses we’ve sold have been to millennials.”
The new owners are required to own and live in the house for at least two years so no one is “flipping” a home the city has poured money into. This also helps create stronger neighborhoods and a stronger Hazel Park.
“If they do sell, they have to sell to someone who will be an owner-occupant and stay there a total of five years. It can’t be a rental,” he said. “This program is keeping speculators and slum lords out of Hazel Park who really damaged the city during and prior to the Great Recession.”
The first rehabbed house sold for $53,000 and one of the most recent sales was at $131,000
The rehab includes new kitchen, new kitchen cabinets, floors, granite countertops and a new bathroom.
“We put a lot of work into these houses,” he said. “If we make a profit off of that house, it either goes back into another house or it will go into something like new park benches or we will demo a house. We’ve had to put a lot of work into the houses so we aren’t making a large profit. We are simply self-sustaining but eventually we will get more money and will be able to put more money into other city assets.”
Campbell has an idea of selling the lots to people who will build new homes in the city. His ultimate dream? The program is so successful that it ends.
To learn more, check out the Land CURE website, www.landcure.org or call them at (248) 546-4060. It’s not George Bailey’s Building and Loan but it is creating better housing for future Hazel Park residents.