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Clearing up Detroit’s dilapidated buildings to cost $1.9bn

Published time: May 28, 2014 12:04
A man looks at the exterior of the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant December 13, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Joshua Lott)

A man looks at the exterior of the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant December 13, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (AFP Photo / Getty Images / Joshua Lott)

Some $1.9 billion is to be spent on clearing abandoned or unusable properties in Detroit. Around 70,000 unusable properties across the city will need to be cleared in the next five years – at a cost of $1.9 billion to the taxpayer.

Uninhabited or unusable properties make up one in five of all the city’s properties.


“Detroit will need as much as $850 million just to address neighborhood blight in the next few years. Addressing the larger-scale commercial sites across the city could add an additional $500 million to $1 billion because of their much larger size and their potential for greater environmental issues,” stated a new report from the city's Blight Removal Task Force.

“Altogether, 1,200 properties will need to be demolished per month over a five-year period,” the report noted. The expense would cost some $2,600 per resident, given the extent of the existing damage.

Towards the end of 2013, the White House promised some $320 million’s worth of aid to Detroit. In July last year the city filed for bankruptcy. It is currently swamped with approximately $18 billion worth of debt.

“Even with every available source of funding, Detroit faces a shortfall of $400 million,” the report adds.

“Adding in the large-scale commercial and industrial projects increases the gap to as much as $1 billion.”

The city itself has a population of some 700,000 residents – a reduction from 1.8 million people in the 1950s. Its abandonment means that around 1,200 buildings will have to be bulldozed on a monthly basis over a five-year period.

The city is in danger of becoming a ghost town. However, blight isn’t the only problem, and re-engaging people with the city could be problematic. The report aims to provide some suggestions and answers to its abandonment – as well as the demolition of the uninhabited houses creating jobs, it recommends building up systems of digital communication and public training sessions to implement them.

Neighborhoods make up 99.3 percent of the total blighted structures, according to the report. It recommends implementing plans to grade and seed sites as soon as possible.