DETROIT (CBS Detroit) When Barack Obama’s administration officials were in town Friday, they announced part of the $300 million in federal funds coming to Detroit would include a blight task force, with an influx of money and energy.
Longtime Detroit booster — Quicken Loans’ chairman Dan Gilbert — is on the newly formed blight task force and discussions reveal his plan for Detroit’s face lift aren’t just skin deep.
“Getting down all these homes that are blighted and commercial, what we need to do is just stop incrementalizing it,” he told WWJ’s Beth Fisher. “The problem is if you incrementalize this stuff then other people are willing to leave their homes and create more and more blight.”
Gilbert wants all the abandoned homes in Detroit to come down fast, even in one fell swoop.
Abandoned homes and blighted neighborhoods have bedeviled the city since Detroiters started fleeing for the suburbs in droves more than 40 years ago, with the city losing another 25 percent of its population in the last decade.
Deadline Detroit reported Gilbert even talked about erecting a huge billboard somewhere around town with a countdown of buildings as they come down.
Detroit has an estimated 78,000 abandoned structures, and teardowns have been a focus of the last several administrations. Ex-mayor Kwame Kilpatrick made tearing down abandoned buildings a focus of his now-defunct administration, but the teardowns happened dozens at a time, not thousands, as Gilbert is advocating.
Mayor Dave Bing is in the midst of a four-year plan to tear down 10,000 buildings in the city considered dangerous.
Other efforts aimed at reducing Detroit’s abandoned housing problem included a 2012 effort to offer homes that didn’t sell at auction for $500. Even squatters were eligible to buy.
Abandoned houses not only bring visual blight and drive down nearby home prices, they also become havens for drugs, prostitution and other crime, police have said. Tearing down houses is expensive, with some estimates at $10,000 each. It also takes widespread organization to deal with surveys, permit processes, taxes, and more.