There are more than 23,000 vacant properties in Flint today, representing one-third of all properties in the city. Approximately 14,500 of these properties are vacant lots, half of which are owned and stewarded by the Genesee County Land Bank Authority (Land Bank).
Mowing these vacant lots is expensive! According to Flint’s five-year Blight Elimination Framework, it would cost $7 million to maintain all vacant lots once a month. To reduce maintenance needs and costs, the Land Bank has planted Dutch White Clover on 1,800 of these lots.
The Land Bank wanted to provide a ground cover for vacant lots that would be slow-growing and easy to maintain. Dutch White Clover grows 10–12 inches in height; once established requires mowing only once or twice per year, and provides the look of a maintained property. In addition, this clover is drought-tolerant, grows well in shade as well as in full sun and benefits the environment by releasing nitrogen into the soil. It provides food for wildlife, and its flowers feed pollinators. The clover seed is widely available and inexpensive. The Land Bank began with a pilot project of forty properties. Planting and initial watering of the clover is required of the contractors who demolish blighted residential and commercial structures.
Once the clover is established, mowing is required only once or twice during the growing season. Many of these lots are being sold to adjacent homeowners for $64 through the Land Bank’s long-established sidelot program. Until the lots are sold, they are maintained through the Land Bank’s community-based Clean & Green maintenance program. The program started at the Land Bank in 2004 and currently engages 57 community groups in maintaining more than 3,400 vacant lots every three weeks. The Clean & Green groups are reporting clover as a success! Because the clover is low-growing and requires much less frequent maintenance than grass, the groups are able to “cover” more ground and maintain more properties than in the past.