Which Way Out for Detroit?

Feeley, Dianne

Publisher:  Against the Current
Date Written:  01/11/2013
Year Published:  2013  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX20274

Feeley discusses the prevention of further home foreclosures in Detroit through a consideration of two of the most urgent issues: unemployment and evictions. These indicators reflect the poverty of the city -- where 35% live below the poverty line according to the 2009 U.S. Census.



No state or federal official has offered to "help" Detroit's underlying structural problems in relation to its home foreclosures. Most recently we were treated to a plan, announced by White House National Economic Council director Gene Sperling, which earmarks $300 million in new and repurposed grants for demolition of homes and commercial buildings. Following a September closed-door roundtable with city and state officials, Sperling reported to the media that Don Graves, a deputy assistant U.S. Treasury secretary, would be the on-the-ground "point person" for the Obama administration.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan stated, "We all believe this will be one of the great comeback stories in the history of American cities." Central is a three-person blight task force that will lay out "a real time line and resources to get it done."

Detroit mayor Dave Bing pledged to tear down 10,000 abandoned homes. Donovan reported that this target will be met by the time Bing leaves office at the end of the year, but still prioritizes demolition funding.

That same day, the former Emergency Manager for the Detroit Public Schools and former General Motors executive Roy Roberts was named the city’s chief land officer. In his acceptance, Roberts stated that land is the city’s most valuable resource. He stated that the goal is to find the most "efficient and appropriate" way to utilize it.

Certainly there are thousands of abandoned homes and buildings now beyond repair, which need to be knocked down. But thousands more could be rehabbed and made livable for folks who desperately need housing. That's not necessarily what Roy Roberts, developers and land speculators might find "efficient." In any case, with 70,000 abandoned properties and 40,000 homes being auctioned off for back taxes this year alone, $300 million is not even seed money for the city's turnaround.

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