Politics & Government
8:42 pm
Mon August 26, 2013

Anti-foreclosure funds will raze thousands of homes in Detroit, 4 other Michigan cities

An abandoned home about the meet the bulldozer in Detroit
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Thousands of vacant homes will come down in five Michigan cities, thanks to a diversion of federal money.

The first blighted homes demolished in the $100 million effort came down in the Marygrove neighborhood on Detroit’s west side Monday.

Detroit will get the lion’s share of that money from the Hardest Hit Fund. That fund--a subset of funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)--was set up to help homeowners in 19 states stay out of foreclosure.

Michigan received $500 million. But some officials thought some of that money should be used another way: to tackle abandoned and blighted properties.

And in a rare instance of multi-level cooperation, state, local and federal officials moved to divert $100 million from foreclosure prevention to demolition.

Flint Congressman Dan Kildee, who helped spearhead the change at the federal level, says “there are a lot of different ways to stabilize neighborhoods and prevent foreclosure.”

“One of them is modifying a mortgage,” Kildee said. “But a really important one that was missed in the Hardest Hit program was to prevent vacancy and abandonment from deteriorating neighborhoods, and taking property values down to the point where an otherwise responsible owner decides ‘You know what, this is not worth the fight.’”

The Michigan State Housing Development Authority calls it the “largest residential blight removal effort” in that agency’s history. MSHDA estimates the effort can demolish 4000 abandoned homes in Detroit alone. Flint, Grand Rapids, Pontiac and Saginaw will split the remaining money.

Neighbors gathered to watch the first five houses demolished on Turner Street.

For 30-year resident Velma Lewis, the demolitions are nothing less than “a prayer answered.”  She said the vacant homes are magnets for scrappers, squatters and criminals.

“When I moved here, it was a beautiful neighborhood,” Lewis said. “I never thought that I would retire to this here. So I am elated.”