LANSING, Mich. — Supermarkets in underserved communities in Michigan can qualify for tax exemptions under a new law passed last week by the state Legislature here. The law — aimed at eliminating "food deserts," where access to fresh foods is usually more limited — amends the state's Commercial Rehabilitation Act to include "retail food establishments" as rehabilitated commercial properties that would be eligible to receive reductions in property taxes for periods of one to 10 years as determined by local government units. Under the act, property exempt from standard property taxes is subject instead to a specific tax based on the value of the property prior to rehabilitation. According to a Michigan legislative analysis, an underserved area is one, as determined by the Michigan Department of Agriculture, that contains a low- to moderate-income census tract and a below-average supermarket density; has a supermarket customer base more than 50% of which lives in a low-income census tract; or is an area that has demonstrated significant access limitations due to travel distance. State Sen. Mark Jansen, who introduced the bill, said, "This new measure will help make Michiganians healthier and spur neighborhood revitalization."
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