Coon Rapids has been hard at work sprucing up the city’s most blighted homes.

Since the early 2000s, city officials have launched several programs aimed at increasing curb appeal, like the Home for Generations initiative, which offers financial incentives to homeowners who do large remodeling projects.

Recently, Coon Rapids renewed another program, Scattered Sites, giving the city an additional “tool in the toolbox,” as economic development coordinator Matt Brown put it.

Through Scattered Sites, the city buys not-so-pretty homes, demolishes them, then sells the sites to a builder or homeowners. The program is run by the Coon Rapids housing and redevelopment authorities (HRA).

“It’s a house that’s in rough enough shape. It’s an opportunity to redevelop some of the bad apple houses in the city,” Brown said. “We don’t want it to be a headache for the neighborhood for years to come.”

There has been a significant demand in the past as the city has redeveloped 17 single-family properties funded primarily by the Coon Rapids Mortgage Assistance Foundation.

The HRA acquired a property in early 2014. Now, although fewer blighted sites have been listed for sale as the housing market improves, the city plans to acquire four more in the upcoming year.

The city only buys vacant homes that have a willing seller. Typically, these homes “aren’t marketable” and have “drawbacks,” Brown said.

“The original idea came about because there were some houses that were just in really bad shape, and the city was concerned that that blight would spread further into the neighborhood,” he said.

Brown said homes have gone to owners who want to oversee the new construction or to builders, like Great Buy Homes based in Anoka.

Glenn Hammer, owner of Great Buy Homes, bought the city’s most recent vacant lot after finding it on a listing website.

This is the first time he’s been involved with the program, and the house will be one of a handful that he’s built in an already established neighborhood.

“I normally don’t do this, but things have been totally different than it used to be,” Hammer said referring to the state’s housing crisis. “It’s hard to find land to build on.

“So there’s not many lots for buyers.”

Hammer has enlisted help from Shawn Rogers, with Keller Williams Classic Realty in Coon Rapids, to put the yet-to-be-built home on the market.

Rogers said it’s hard to find land for builders that’s not a brand-new development.

“So these sites can work really well for homeowners that can find a site and want to build a custom home or for builders that want to put a model or a spec home [a house built without a particular buyer in mind],” Rogers said.

Brown said the scattered sites sold to builders are not typically on the market too long. Buyers like that the home is brand-new and in an established community.

“It allows you to integrate into an existing community really quickly,” Rogers said. “Generally you won’t find new homes in an established neighborhood.”

Sometimes it’s better to start from scratch than “pumping” money into an old home, Hammer said.

“If you get issues already, and the foundation is falling apart … it just doesn’t make sense to through money at it,” he said.


Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora