DETROIT BLIGHT REMOVAL TASK FORCE
The Task Force commenced its work in September 2013, six months after Michigan Governor Rick Snyder named Kevyn Orr the Emergency Manager (EM) for the City of Detroit, and two months before Mike Duggan was elected Mayor. Even before assuming office in January 2014, the Mayor had set the tone for a strong step towards addressing every neighborhood in Detroit, saving as many structures as possible, and strongly supporting residents in their work to protect their homes and strengthen their communities. In August 2013, Mr. Duggan introduced Every Neighborhood Has a Future 10-point Plan. This was the Mayor’s strategy to restore Detroit as a great place to live and work.
The Task Force conducted its work as the Mayor’s office was simultaneously and aggressively pursuing neighborhood-saving interventions, including some that are supported and emphasized in this report.
Highlights of the mayor’s plan launched in recent months include:
- The Establishment of the Department of Neighborhoods, providing the foundation for coordinating cross-agency actions and supporting much more consistent and transparent communication between the city and its residents than ever before;
- Re-energizing the role of the Detroit Land Bank Authority (DLBA) as a strong agent for preservation, revitalization, and transformation of blighted properties in Detroit through a range of interventions, from stabilization of structures and returning them to private ownership to removal of hazardous conditions and dangerous buildings;
- Strong leadership to realize the vision of Detroit Future City, especially through the newly established cabinet position for Jobs and Economic Growth;
- Prioritization of Blight Removal through a range of approaches, from management of the Hardest Hit Fund Program to reawakening Detroit’s code enforcement and nuisance abatement programs;
- Investment in a unique partnership between the City of Detroit and the DLBA, including the new BuildingDetroit.org website and other approaches to encouraging renewal and resident investment;
- Establishment of special programs to assist responsible homeowners, such as the program to offer $1 million in forgivable home improvement loans to new homeowners in the Marygrove University area; and
- Numerous efforts to reform city and state legislation, not only to address blight and crack down on irresponsible property speculators and owners, but also to support neighborly actions such as community boarding, while closing loopholes that reward property theft in the form of scrap metal stripping, or that turn a blind eye to squatting and other illegal practices.
The work of the Task Force directly supports the Mayor’s vision of a future for every neighborhood. The goal of blight removal is to build strong neighborhoods. Many homes in Detroit are structurally sound, often with beautiful architecture and wonderful features, yet they sit abandoned today because of the blight that surrounds them. When homeowners feel that there is no hope for their neighborhood’s future, they just leave. To reverse this trend, it is urgent that we dramatically speed up the process of demolishing the vacant buildings that cannot be saved. For this reason, the Task Force set out to provide the City of Detroit with a blight removal strategy that leverages all the existing resources in Detroit as well as introduces new recommendations to create an efficient, scalable, cost effective, and environmentally safe methodology.
This monumental effort is going to take a village. To rebuild this city, it will be necessary for unprecedented leadership and cooperation from the city, Council, Wayne County, the State of Michigan, the private sector, non-profit partners, the Feds, community leaders, and residents.
Eliminating all blight from Detroit is an enormous task, but Detroiters have the inventiveness, grit, and resiliency to get it done. Everyone within city agencies, private business, charitable and cultural organizations, and each resident has a stake and a role in accomplishing this mission. We all must do our part in getting rid of the blight and disinvestment that has held Detroit back from its full potential. We all must help ensure that our city will never experience such neglect again.
With this in mind, the Task Force developed the following set of fundamental principles to guide our work. These principles provide the foundation for our strategy to achieve our mission of a blight-free Detroit.
About the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force
“Our Mission: To develop a straightforward and detailed implementation plan to remove every ‘blighted’ residential structure, commercial structure and public building, and clear every blighted vacant lot in the city of Detroit as quickly as possible using an environmentally-conscious approach. The plan’s recommendations will focus on creating economic opportunities for the city and its people, as well as dramatically improving the safety of residents and first responders.”