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Muskegon Heights offering tax-foreclosed homes to attract new residents to the city

According to U.S. Census data the population in Muskegon Heights shrunk from 10,856 in 2010 to 9,917 in 2020.

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich. — In the city of Muskegon Heights there's a troubling trend: The population continues to decline year after year and decade after decade.

According to U.S. Census data the city's population was 10,856 in 2010. 2020 census data released earlier this month show the city's population shrunk to 9,917, a difference of 939 residents.

Signs of the smaller population are visible all around the community, with multiple vacant homes and empty lots on nearly every street in the city.

"That's a troubling trend," said Muskegon Heights Mayor Walter Watt.

Watt estimates there are around 400 properties in the city owned by the Muskegon County Land Bank. Some of those properties are vacant lots, others include vacant homes.

In an effort to slow, stop or possibly even reverse population loss in Muskegon Heights the city will purchase 21 homes on backed taxes. The vacant homes are scattered around the city. Mayor Watt says it's a new effort by the city council to keep homes that could be renovated and occupied from falling into control of the land bank.

"We need to retain our own properties and allow our community to be developed," said Watt. "Our preference is for citizens to purchase these homes and develop them and become homeowners."

In September full listings and descriptions of the 21 homes will be posted to the city's website. Interest buyers can gain ownership of the properties for the cost the city paid to acquire the property's title.

Muskegon Heights City Manager Troy Bells says in some cases that could be just a few thousand dollars.

"We are paying $52,000 for 21 homes," said Bell. "We are being proactive."

The properties all need various improvements. In some cases the structures could be ready for occupancy following a few months of hard work and renovations.  

"As we do that our neighborhoods become better, our community becomes cleaner," said Watt.

"It's economic development, jobs in the community for plumbers and electricians," added Bell.

City leaders will hold an informational meeting in early September for potential buyers. That event at city hall will provide additional information on how to acquire one of the homes. 

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