The Obama administration is letting Michigan divert almost $33 million from foreclosure prevention to demolition projects.
Detroit and Flint will benefit from the additional funds, which come from Michigan’s share of the federal Hardest Hit Fund.
That program was originally meant to help homeowners facing foreclosure. But as the result of lobbying from state and local officials, the Obama administration has allowed Michigan to divert money from HHF funds toward blight removal three times since 2013.
A little more than $21 million of the newest batch will go to Detroit, where Mayor Mike Duggan says Hardest Hit money has driven 80% of the city’s demolition campaign since May 2014.
“We have taken down 6,760 homes,” Duggan told the Detroit City Council this month, adding that Detroit is now setting the “national standard” when it comes to demolition and blight eradication.
That demolition campaign has come recently come under scrutiny for soaring costs and bidding practices, with the City Council requesting an audit.
Duggan insists the program is entirely aboveboard, blaming the rising costs on higher environmental standards and other factors. He says the additional HHF funds money should keep the city’s demolition program afloat through April.
In Flint, Mayor Dayne Walling says the additional $11 million will allow the city to finance about 800 more demolitions.
“That’s a giant step forward towards the 5,000 residential properties that we still have to demolish, and the 500 commercial properties,” says Walling, noting the city will work within its “comprehensive framework for every single blighted property in this community.”