This work was done, in response to The Neighborhood Challenge and a need for a Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy recommended by the Housing Analysis for Midland County, Michigan 2018 by czbLLC. An analysis was completed for a specific neighborhood section, asking the question, “ Why is there private investment not occurring in the neighborhood to sustain it, and are there ways to create investment momentum to restore struggling neighborhoods to their former glory?” It is our view that we should get started, target a neighborhood to improve and pilot concepts, then scale to other parts of the city, we are now seeking input on the intention, recommendations and concepts.
Principles of Intervention | The Neighborhood Challenge
1. Keep good owners in their homes or create new good owners where possible
2. Undertake programming to increase home ownership where it makes sense
3. Regulate and support rental properties to provide quality housing to low-income renters
The 8-block area that lies directly between Grove Park and Indian Street was selected as the focal point for this pilot revitalization strategy.
Located within the first outer ring from downtown, the houses range from well-maintained clearly owner-occupied homes to neglected in maintenance clearly low-quality rental units and in one instance abandoned to decay. “Many older neighborhoods in Midland are now losing homeowners and experiencing an increase in poverty as lower income households move in.” This excerpt from CZB LLC in the 2018 Midland Housing analysis summarizes their findings of interior neighborhoods in Midland that have suffered from being older and smaller have become unmarketable due to limited demand and have become the de facto affordable housing solution for poor households. The average sale price per square foot in this 8-block area is $63.24 in the last 12 months. The broader Midtown Midland neighborhood to the northeast has averaged a sale price of $80.93 per square foot, this reinforces that that the property values are suffering within this neighborhood section.
Strategic Concepts to Improve the Grove Park Neighborhood
- 1 - Fight Blight
As a first step to improve neighborhood pride, creating and communicating a zero tolerance policy for blight and a positive methodology for code enforcement will help achieve the principles for neighborhood intervention. To start, having a city staff attend a Midtown Midland Neighborhood Association meeting with a flyer or takeaway on what constitutes blight and what actions residents can take to report it to the city for their review.
The city could then perform an “operation clean sweep.” This innovative program has been taking place in Warren, Michigan successfully for 10 years. The program operates in the following way, a brochure is sent to a designated neighborhood telling them a ‘clean sweep’ will be occurring on a particular day giving them a notice to clean up potential violations and avoid fines. It also lists what violations staff will be looking for. These clean sweeps can be performed by specialized city staff in blight or by volunteers of any department that take a day out of the office once a quarter. Building pride takes effort and keeping instances of blight to a minimum will increase community pride over time.
- 2 - Owner-Occupied Renovations
The priority here shifts to encouraging and incentivizing owner-occupied single-family homes. The Michigan State Housing Development Authority Neighborhood Enhancement Programprovides funding to nonprofits statewide for activities directly relating to stabilization and enhancement of neighborhoods. The intent is to fund tangible housing-oriented activities that are: implementation ready; highly visible; impactful to the neighborhood and resident’s quality of life; holistically/community focused; and where there is buy-in and demonstrated support within the neighborhood and community. Each community is eligible for up to $50,000 to provide direct home improvements for eligible activities to owner-occupied homes of residents at or below 80% of the area median income. This program is designed to build the value of homes. If successful during this pilot, the program could be continued through the support of a local foundation.
In addition to finding incentives for current residents, utilizing local mortgage programs that fit the target market in this neighborhood, namely first-time home buyers, veterans, USDA rural programs, and rehab incentives from local banks are also an option. Making sure these options are communicated to realtors that can informs potential buyers within this neighborhood is critical. Many of the homes are older and need repairs, therefore having the right loan programs that provide new buyers the financial capacity could make a difference in attracting new owners that will strengthen the neighborhood.
- 3 - Missing Middle Housing
Missing middle housing is essential to a community. It adds quality residential rentals at attainable prices and are typically owned by local citizens who choose to invest in their community’s neighborhoods. The additional residential density would make progress in the pursuit of raising property values within the neighborhood for current residents by giving owners more equity in their currently owned assets – reversing the tide of depreciation. Having more residents with convenient access to support local businesses helps entrepreneurs and suplies the city with sales tax revenue.
Much like the rest of the country, Midland doesn’t currently have medium density options that are in proximity to downtown and walkable. The incorporation of duplexes, triplexes, fourplexes, and accessory dwelling units would blend into the existing single and dual-story fabric of this neighborhood and be non-disruptive to the overall scale, context, and character that exists currently. Because this particular neighborhood area is within the first distinct ring from downtown it’s ideal for a slightly higher density missing middle housing options. These provide housing options that are often at very attainable price points for young families, seniors, health concious persons who want a walkable/bikeable lifestyle, young professionals, and multigenerational households.
Barriers to Overcome
· A municipal review regarding code enforcement, blight, current processes, and implementation of improved/new practices
· Receipt of a neighborhood enhancement program award will surely be competitive and efforts should be made to ensure the application and communication with MSHDA is as strong as possible
· Access to residential loans and programs available, bank programs to build credit, and encouraging pathways to finance investments
· Missing middle housing is functionally illegal in this neighborhood. Reviewing and revising the zoning and planning ordinances would be necessary to encourage quality housing investments as of right on vacant land.