Detroit Task Force: One-Fifth of City’s Properties are Blighted

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Blighted homes
Sam Dao /

May 27, 2014; Detroit News

Detroit’s Blight Task Force, one of the public-private partnerships formed to revive the Motor City as it emerges from an unprecedented bankruptcy, says it will cost $850 million and take up to five years to remove the 84,641 blighted properties it identified, according to the Detroit News.

That’s about 22 percent of the city’s 380,000 parcels, according to a report unveiled this week that goes on to offer a blueprint for fixing one of the city’s most difficult problems. The total cost of removing blight in Detroit could approach $2 billion, but neighborhoods with the “most pressing need” would be tackled first, according to one of three members of the task force.

Detroit’s downtown may be coming back, but without eradicating neighborhood blight, “the positive momentum is bound to run out of steam,” task force member Dan Gilbert told the paper. The 300-page report comes after eight months of research, data collection and mapping. The News says that it’s the most comprehensive study of blight ever done within the 139-square-mile city.

About half the blighted properties are structures, which includes homes that are fire damaged, public nuisances, or open to the elements. The vast majority are residential structures, while some 6,000 are vacant lots and 5,471 are businesses or churches. The group has identified $456 million in funding from federal grants and other sources, which leaves a $394 million shortfall. Detroit’s emergency manager has already allocated money for blight removal as part of a reinvestment plan in the city’s ongoing bankruptcy proceedings, previously reported here in Nonprofit Quarterly.

Mayor Mike Duggan told the News that the city will demolish city-owned buildings it can’t use and occupy ones it can. Detroit Public School buildings are “one of the biggest sources of blight in the community” and will be a priority.

The task force also included two nonprofit leaders: the president of the Detroit Public Schools Foundation and the executive director of a local community development nonprofit. The study was funded by the Skillman and Kresge Foundations, along with the parent company of Quicken Loans, which is headquartered in Detroit, and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Since taking office in January, Mayor Duggan has vowed to make the city’s blight fight a top priority. He created the Department of Neighborhoods, beefed up the Detroit Land Bank Authority, and launched programs to revitalize and improve the city’s housing stock. Detroit’s City Council recently transferred 16,399 city-owned residential structures to the land bank. The mayor has also targeted abandoned or neglected properties for demolition or inclusion in the administration’s new and expanding home auction program.—Larry Kaplan