hardest hit

A demolition in Flint.
Genesee County Land Bank

A new Special Inspector General’s report says a federal program that funds blight removal lacks key safeguards against waste and corruption.

Michigan has received more than $381 million in blight removal funds from the US Treasury’s Hardest Hit Fund – by far the most of any state.

The HHF was originally intended to help homeowners facing foreclosure. Starting in 2013, Treasury allowed some of the funds to be diverted to blight removal, mostly in the form of demolitions.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state has a $75 million federal grant to help people struggling with their home loans. But it will use the lion’s share of it to tear down abandoned structures in Detroit and 

Kevin Elsenheimer is the director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. He says that should improve the quality of life and property values in those cities. Elsenheimer says this money is mostly going to Detroit and Flint because they have the most abandoned 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state of Michigan is getting tens of millions of dollars from the federal government to tear down blighted buildings.

Last year, Congress approved spending $2 billion to fund blight elimination programs nationwide. 

The U.S. Department of Treasury today says Michigan is eligible for more than $300 million from the Hardest Hit fund. Nearly $75 million is available immediately.

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, has been among those fighting for the blight money.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan may soon apply for tens of millions of dollars in federal funding to tear down blighted homes.

Michigan U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters met with Congressman Dan Kildee in Flint today to discuss the transfer of $2 billion into the federal Hardest Hit Fund.

Peters says the evidence that this program works is “overwhelming”.

“Whenever you knock down blighted homes in a neighborhood, those property values stabilize. Those properties go up in value.  People move back into the neighborhood,” says Peters.  

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

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.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A major blight elimination program is winding down in Flint.

Around 1700 dilapidated homes have been torn down during the past few years. The program is funded with nearly $23 million in grant funding.

Christina Kelly is with the Genesee County Land Bank. She says the before and after effect on neighborhoods is something to see.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Like many Michigan cities, Saginaw has been struggling to deal with blight and crime. At least in Saginaw, the struggle appears to be paying off.

A study released today finds major crimes (arson, aggravated assault, criminal sexual conduct, homicide, robbery, burglary, larceny-theft and motor vehicle theft) decreased 54% between 2005 and 2014. The number is expected to be lower this year. 

User thinkpanama / Flickr

Nationwide and in Michigan the rate of foreclosures has slowed a bit in recent months.  But Realty Trac experts say that’s less a sign of a robust housing recovery and more a sign that lenders have become bogged down.  They’re reviewing procedures, resubmitting paperwork and formulating legal arguments related to accusations of improper foreclosure processing, the so-called robo-signing scandal.