Detroit’s blight-removal campaign ramps up

December 14, 2014

Softening an international reputation as the home of urban ruin porn, the campaign to rid Detroit of blighted eyesores is at last showing results, with the city demolishing about 200 vacant houses a week, four times the level of a year or so ago.

The city believes it can sustain a rate of 200 demolitions a week. At that pace, it could soon be tearing down as many as 10,000 structures a year. Much of the work has been concentrated in about 20 neighborhoods considered the city’s tipping points — places such as Marygrove and Bagley on the west side that have enough homeowners and assets that blight removal would have an immediate, positive effect.

“The idea is to strengthen the strong neighborhoods,” said Kevin Simowski, director of the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which holds, maintains and sells property taken by the city from tax foreclosures.

The land bank has filed close to 1,200 lawsuits this year against owners of nuisance properties, so far winning judgments or consent agreements in more than 500 cases. And sales of city-owned side lots to neighbors, which used to take at least six months, are now completed in less than an hour, with 85 selling last weekend in a fair sponsored by the city.

Paula and Douglas Rogers, who live in southwest Detroit, just bought their fifth side lot in several years, paying $100 to the land bank. All the lots they’ve purchased are adjacent to their house and all became vacant after the houses were demolished. The Rogerses plant trees there and otherwise keep them up.

Detroit’s blight-removal campaign ramps up
John Gallagher, December 14, 2014, Detroit Free Press