(WWJ) — Across Wayne County, there is a new approach to dealing with blighted and abandoned homes — instead of demolishing the homes, they’re being reconstructed and renovated.

Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano said that the program will be expanding soon.

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“We’ve done it so far in about five communities and we want to continue to do it,” Ficano said. “It’s better than just knocking the house down and not teaching anybody how to work with it.”

Ficano was one of many who gathered at the University of Detroit Mercy to talk about the success of the pilot program.

“Instead of just knocking a home down when we’re talking about blight and things like that, we’ve entered into a project,” Ficano said. “We’ve done approximately 120 homes — we know it’s over 100 — where we do what we call deconstruction.”

Jeremy Haines with the organization Reclaim Detroit said that the houses are really unrecognizable when the group is finished with them.

“Our people get to see the house literally transform from something that’s a problem to something that’s really valuable in the form of some kind of product,” Haines said. “So we have cutting boards that we make called end-grain cutting boards, we do picture frames, we do boxes.”

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Hines said that salvaged materials can even be used to make furniture.

“You’re doing a disservice to the community and to the economy, in our view, if you throw away material away because what we can do is create jobs — we can put people back to work through these materials,” Haines said.

In less than two years, nearly 70 homes have been fixed up, with dozens of new long-term jobs created with the help of the Wayne County Economic Development Growth Engine (EDGE).

“We work with people, especially from the neighborhood.” Ficano siad. “They’re paid, they start to acquire a skill and realize what they can extract from the house.”


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