For the more then 80 volunteers who gathered on a chilly November morning in Sterling Heights the mission to help clean up 30 homes is not just about making their streets look tidy.
The Sterling Heights Initiative for Neighborhood Excellence (SHINE) is a city-wide program aimed at protecting property values. Lawn care, leaf raking, and pruning of bushes for elderly residents, or those with physical or financial hardship, may seem simple steps towards a city’s beautification, but the SHINE volunteers are one of the reasons city manager Mark Vanderpool believes Sterling Heights is maintaining it’s property values.
Last year Sterling Heights was ranked having the fifth-highest property values in Michigan, and the highest property value in Macomb County, according to the Michigan Department of Treasury. City officials say the residential property class has increased overall by 7% since then, and approximately 40% since 2014. Vanderpool points to groups like SHINE and several other initiatives in the city that are contributing to the numbers.
City Manager Mark Vanderpool is proud of the steps Sterling Heights is taking to secure property values.
Since its inception in 2012, the SHINE program has cleaned up more than 400 homes through its bi-annual events. Any property maintenance enforcement or violation issues are run through a local administrative court, rather than the usual district court, which Vanderpool says speeds up resolutions as well.
“We can turn around a piece of problematic property within a matter of weeks,” Vanderpool says. “It minimizes that whole ‘broken window’ theory, if you have a dilapidated property is has a negative effect on an entire area.”
There’s a risk, however, with increasing property values in the city. Vanderpool admits affordability can become a challenge.
One way to deal with this drawback is the development of mixed-use projects, and the city is taking strides to smooth approval processes. The hardest part is construction costs, says economic development manager Luke Bonner.
“It’s a struggle for everyone throughout south-east Michigan,” says Bonner. “But the city has been really proactive with, when appropriate, providing economic incentives, which can help lower costs.”
Senior Economic Development Advisor Luke Bonner says Sterling Heights has seen approximately $2.1 billion in residential, commercial and industrial investments over the past five years.
Vanderpool points to the city’s pro-business attitude as another pillar shoring up property values in the area. With new investment from businesses like BAE Systems, HTI Cybernetics and innovation hubs like the Velocity Collaboration Center
, the city currently boasts 65,000 jobs.
“The city, itself, is a job center,” says Bonner. “It’s and easy place to live and to find nearby work.”
It hasn’t always been the case. Coming back from the impact bankruptcy had on employers, such as announced closure of the Fiat Chrysler Automotive (FCA) assembly plant in 2009, has been a difficult task. Vanderpool says the rallying around expected closures, a subsequent automotive task force, and city incentive packages helped save the day.
“Because of that proactive effort, FCA was able to reverse that decision,” says Vanderpool. “Now they have invested billions of dollars.”
Quality of life
It would be difficult to view property values in the city without considering the major updates happening to public spaces through Sterling Heights’ Vision 2030 plan
, one of the reasons the city ranked in the top 10
places in metro Detroit to raise a family last year.
When home-owner Karli Becker and her husband were looking at buying a house in 2017 they were attracted to the quality of life the parks and recreation plans for the city.
“Houses are fairly priced and affordable,” says Becker. “Especially for younger couples who are just starting out their careers and working on financial stability.”
Becker was impressed with the family-friendly neighborhoods. “While house searching, we saw family’s on bike rides and lemonade stands, and sidewalks throughout most neighborhoods.”
Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski has been awarded for his efforts to increase the diversity of the Sterling Heights police force.
For Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor, the city’s recent ranking as one of the safest in Michigan
is another key reason residents choose to invest. The city was ranked in the FBI’s 2018 annual report as the safest Michigan city with a population of more than 100,000, in both property crime and violent crime, as well as safest overall.
“We’ve always known the Sterling Heights Police Department is a first-class organization, but it’s always great to see the results of their exemplary police work backed up by hard data,” says Taylor.
Police Chief Dale Dwojakowski says he couldn’t be prouder of his department and the city’s residents.
“It truly is a collaborative effort between the remarkable, relentless men and women of the Sterling Heights Police Department and our residents, business representatives and city officials who support and encourage us to continue to strive for excellence in protecting the citizens of this great city,” says Dwojakowski.