Report identifies 84,641 structures and vacant lots in Detroit that need help

May 27, 2014

The main image on the report released today.
The main image on the report released today.
Credit Data Driven Detroit

The number comes from a much-anticipated report on the state of decay in Detroit's neighborhoods and what can be done about that decay.

The final report from the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force is titled, "Every Neighborhood Has a Future...And It Doesn't Include Blight."

The report's authors say a combination of blight removal and investment in Detroit's neighborhoods should be the goal for the city's leaders.

From the report:

Structure removal alone will not be enough to fully transform Detroit’s neighborhoods. There must be a concentrated reinvestment in Detroit’s neighborhoods, which will allow for the rebuilding of value.

The report draws heavily on a technology project aimed at cataloging buildings in the city. The Motor City Mapping Project relied on teams of people going out, snapping photos of a building or lot, and then attaching information to that cataloged parcel.

Here's how it worked:

And here's a chart showing the result of their effort:

Chart from the Motor City Mapping project.
Chart from the Motor City Mapping project.
Credit Motor City Mapping Project.

The Blight Removal Task Force found that of the 84,641 structures and vacant lots in Detroit that need help:

  • 40,077 structures clearly meet the Task Force definition of “blight” and are recommended for immediate removal.
  • 38,429 structures have “blight indicators” and need further evaluation. The spectrum of interventions includes rehabilitation, removal, or securing.
  • At least 6,135 vacant lots showed evidence of dumping and need immediate attention. (Given the record-breaking snowfall of 2014, the surveyors had difficulty getting an accurate identification of the vacant lot conditions.)

So addressing the city's blight problems is key to rebuilding Detroit. What will it all cost? The report's authors estimate the following:

  • $850 million "just to address neighborhood blight in the next few years." 
  • $500 million to $1 billion ​to tackle "the larger-scale commercial sites across the city"
  • $50 million to clear and maintain vacant lots

So all told, the price tag could go as high as $2 billion.

The authors write that the city has $87.6 million it can used toward blight removal today, and could get as much as $440 million through the city's bankruptcy proceedings, but that money is not guaranteed.

Again, from the report:

With every source of funding accounted for, Detroit still faces a shortfall of approximately $400 million in the coming years, just to address neighborhood blight.* Adding in the large-scale commercial and industrial projects increases the gap to as much as $1 billion.

This is the final report from the Blight Removal Task Force.

The authors write, "these are ideas. It's now up to neighborhoods and the city to implement, iterate, and inform them."

A report like this, much like a master plan for a city, is just information. Doing something with it will be the real challenge for Detroit's leaders.