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Sat May 20, 2017, 10:53 PM

Detroit's DIY Cure for Urban Blight

The sheer scale of abandonment in Detroit is unmatched in America. A city of 1.8 million people in 1950, Detroit’s population has plummeted by almost two-thirds. A once-teeming city that defined America’s middle class aspirations has become a surreal patchwork of still-dense neighborhoods separated by nearly empty expanses of land. In 2014, the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, appointed by President Obama, counted 40,000 blighted houses in the city and 38,000 more homes heading in that direction. They’ve wounded property values, leading to a loss of tax dollars for a city struggling to pay its bills and social deterioration that discouraged all but the bravest from moving in. The national surge of interest in urban living has reached only a few Detroit neighborhoods. Mortgages are rare in the city. Dilapidated houses in tougher neighborhoods sell—for cash—for as little as $500 or $1,000.

Duggan was elected mayor in November 2013 on a 10-point platform for rebuilding the city’s neighborhoods after the largest municipal bankruptcy ever filed in the U.S. “If we act now,” his platform read, “we still have time to save the large stretches of this city that are still filled with residents who want to stay in their homes.” He wanted to bring people back into the city, increase the tax rolls and save Detroit, which has the highest concentration of poverty of any large city in America. One of the keys to his plan was to radically enlarge the city’s tiny land bank program.

Land banks are the Swiss Army knives of urban reclamation efforts, wielding an array of powers to make abandoned, tax-foreclosed properties useful again. They demolish unwanted houses, sell houses to new owners who’ll fix them up, sell vacant lots, and assemble land for future development. They’re an alternative to unloading tax-foreclosed land in highest-bidder auctions, which often attract irresponsible speculation.

By most measures, Duggan’s plan for the land bank has worked. Almost four years later, Detroit’s land bank has grown into the largest in the country, about seven times bigger than the next largest. It now has 135 employees and owns 98,000 parcels, covering some 10 percent of the city. It has demolished more than 8,800 houses and sold 1,500 of the newly vacant lots to neighbors. It’s also sold a couple of thousand more houses to people like Clement Wright and 130 vacant lots for economic development projects. It has launched an innovative effort to sue owners who have left houses vacant and neglected.


http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/05/18/how-detroit-is-beating-its-blight-215160

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Reply Detroit's DIY Cure for Urban Blight (Original post)
RandySF May 2017 OP
First Speaker May 2017 #1
jaysunb May 2017 #2
First Speaker May 2017 #3
Demsrule86 May 2017 #8
NBachers May 2017 #4
SMC22307 May 2017 #5
Liberty Belle May 2017 #6
RandySF May 2017 #7
MichMan May 2017 #9

Response to RandySF (Original post)

Sat May 20, 2017, 11:09 PM

1. Good luck, Detroit...

...I lived there in the late 50s and early 60s, as a small child...dad worked for Ford. I remember it as a vibrant city, exciting, the cutting edge of America. God knows, maybe it can be again. It has such potential...

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Response to First Speaker (Reply #1)

Sat May 20, 2017, 11:22 PM

2. Look no further than Cleveland

Thriving, vibrant and growing. It CAN be done.

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Response to jaysunb (Reply #2)

Sat May 20, 2017, 11:33 PM

3. Cool! I visited Cleveland for the first time in 2013...

...and I really loved it. It was so much more beautiful, charming, you name it, than I was expecting. (Yeah, there were some bad spots, too. Like in every city.) I especially loved the Terminal Tower, which is the prettiest damned skyscraper in America. I'm delighted to see it thriving. I've even thought now and again of moving there when I retire...Ohio is a lovely state, and the people there really *are* nice...

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Response to jaysunb (Reply #2)

Sun May 21, 2017, 07:47 AM

8. I love Cleveland. We have tickets for Playhouse Square Broadway series...

You pay for an entire season what you would pay for 1 ticket in many cases in New York. The theater...they have some of the greatest restaurants I have ever eaten in...Ohio City is both affordable and up and coming...and West side Market...go up there regularly ...great produce...and now parking. I live about an hour out in Cortland Ohio.

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Response to RandySF (Original post)

Sat May 20, 2017, 11:53 PM

4. Every word of this article is worth reading.

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Response to RandySF (Original post)

Sun May 21, 2017, 01:24 AM

5. This Old House is there.

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/life/home-garden/2017/03/23/old-house-visits-detroit/99556320/

Episode I watched today featured land banks and urban farming.

I was getting a sick of the insanely expensive renovations in wealthy areas, so I'm loving this new season. Go, Detroit!

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Response to RandySF (Original post)

Sun May 21, 2017, 03:31 AM

6. Why not just give those homes to homeless veterans and other

homeless people who meet certain criteria (ie, not drug addicts) -- give a second chance to those who simply lost jobs, had health problems, etc.

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Response to Liberty Belle (Reply #6)

Sun May 21, 2017, 03:50 AM

7. If you've been to Detroit, you'll understand.

These are wooden houses that were built many years ago and subjected to decades of hot, humid summers and cold, wet winters. They are in bad shape and SOMEONE has to repair and maintain them, and the city doesn't have the budget for that.

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Response to RandySF (Original post)

Sun May 21, 2017, 08:47 AM

9. Sounds like there isn't much oversight

Frustrated with the City of Detroit's “lack of oversight" of its demolition contractors, the state is pushing for fines and additional penalties against the city after environmental inspectors found dozens of properties where deadly asbestos was mishandled.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has already demanded thousands of dollars in penalties against Detroit's demolition and asbestos abatement contractors after finding violations at more than 100 properties across the city since 2014, including multiple homes that were torn down before crumbling asbestos was removed.

The findings suggest the possibility of a larger problem with demolitions in the city.

DEQ can hold both contractors and the property owner — in this case the city, the Detroit Land Bank Authority and the Detroit Building Authority — equally responsible for asbestos violations. Until now, however, DEQ had sought fines against only contractors.

Since 2014, when Mayor Mike Duggan took office and launched his ambitious effort to tear down 40,000 blighted buildings in neighborhoods, DEQ investigators have found dusty bags stuffed with asbestos siding and tossed into a garbage bin, pulverized asbestos-containing floor tiles left in a pile of demolition debris, and a dry pile of construction debris littered with asbestos.

DEQ isn't the only agency taking a hard look at the city's demolition program, which has cost $166.6 million to date. The FBI and the inspector general of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Trouble Asset Recovery Program, which provides a large source of the funding, launched an investigation.  The city's auditor general has been auditing the program.

http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2017/05/20/detroit-demolitions-blight-asbestos/101520078/

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