Skip to comments.Shrinking Detroit has 12,000 abandoned homes
Posted on 08/15/2005 9:59:30 AM PDT by Pikamax
Shrinking Detroit has 12,000 abandoned homes Sun Aug 14, 5:03 PM ET
Rats or lead poisoning. When it comes to the threats from the broken down house next door, Dorothy Bates isn't sure which is worse.
"When it's lightening and thundering you can hear the bricks just falling," the 40-year-old nurse said as she looked at the smashed windows and garbage-strewn porch. "If you call and ask (the city) about it they say they don't have the funds to tear it down."
There are more than 12,000 abandoned homes in the Detroit area, a byproduct of decades of layoffs at the city's auto plants and white flight to the suburbs. And despite scores of attempts by government and civic leaders to set the city straight, the automobile capitol of the world seems trapped in a vicious cycle of urban decay.
Detroit has lost more than half its population since its heyday in the 1950's. The people who remain are mostly black -- 83 percent -- and mostly working class, with 30 percent of the population living below the poverty line according to the US Census Bureau.
The schools are bad. The roads are full of potholes. Crime is high and so are taxes. The city is in a budget crisis so deep it could end up being run by the state.
And it just got knocked off the list of the nation's ten largest cities.
"Detroit has become an icon of what's considered urban decline," said June Thomas, a professor of urban and regional planning at Michigan State University.
"The issue is not just getting people in the city. It's getting people in the city who can become property owners and stay property owners and pay taxes."
Perhaps the biggest challenge to luring the middle class from the area's swank suburbs is overcoming racial tensions, said Stephen Vogel, dean of the school of architecture at University of Detroit Mercy.
"Suburbanites are taking the bodies of their relatives out of cemeteries because they're afraid to come to the city," Vogel said. "There are about 400 to 500 hundred (being moved) a year which shows you the depth of racism and fear."
Most American cities have experienced a shift towards the suburbs.
What made Detroit's experience so stark was the lack of regional planning and the ease with which developments were able to incorporate into new cities in order to avoid sharing their tax revenue with the city, said Margaret Dewar, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan.
The fleeing businesses and homeowners left behind about 36 square miles (58 square kilometers) of vacant land. That's roughly the size of San Francisco and about a quarter of Detroit's total land mass.
While a decision by General Motors to build its new headquarters smack in the middle of downtown has helped lure young professionals and spark redevelopment in some of the more desirable neighborhoods, there is little hope the vacant land will be filled any time soon.
In his state of the city address, embattled mayor Kwame Kilpatrick said even if 10,000 new homes were built every year for the next 15 years "we wouldn't fill up our city."
And Detroit is still losing about 10,000 people every year.
One solution Vogel has proposed is to turn swaths of the city into farmland. In the four years since his students initiated a pilot project dozens of community gardens and small farms have popped up.
But first the city has to get rid of the crumbling buildings that haunt the streets, luring criminals, arsonists and wild animals and creating a general sense of hopelessness.
"It's partly a resource issue and it's partly a bureaucracy issue," said Eric Dueweke, the community partnership manager at the University of Michigan's College of Architecture and Urban Planning.
"It takes them forever to find the proper owners of the properties and serve them with the proper paperwork," he said. "They're tearing them down at the rate of 1,500 or 2,000 a year, so they're really not cutting into the backlog in any significant way because that's how many are coming on stream."
Dorothy Bates has been waiting three years for the crumbling house next door to be torn down. There are nine more on her short block along with several vacant lots that are overgrown with weeds.
Bates does her best to keep her five children away from the rat nests, but the lead creeping out of crumbling bricks and peeling paint drifts in through her windows.
The most frustrating part of it, says her neighbor Larry, is that so many of the abandoned houses could be repaired. The foundations are solid. The buildings are beautiful. Or at least, they were once.
That's true, but New York has inherent advantages over places like Detroit. Maybe you're right and someone will hit the jackpot by investing in real estate in Detroit, but I know that before I'd cough up several hundred thousand dollars of my hard-earned cash, I'd want to see a definitive plan that the city has for turning things around; frankly, I just don't see that.
The only thing that Detroit has going for it is that it is in the Midwest (no major natural disasters) and next to a Great Lake, so it's got plenty of water. But seriously: what has Detroit got going for it? What is going to bring people back? What is going to bring businesses there?
Taxes alone higher or lower are not going to save Detroit... fact is the Jobs aren't there... there is more housing than there ever will be people again, the story is no different than hundreds of other cities and towns across the rust belt that the only difference is they are much smaller in scale...
I am not going to argue liberal politics have not exacerbated Detroits problems, but the facts are very simple, at one point there were jobs a pleanty and people needed places to live to be near them, now the jobs are gone, the people are leaving and the remnants of the past wealth lingers in vacant buildings that no one has a need for.
10,000 people PER YEAR are leaving.... all the tax breaks in the world won't stop the flight.... JOBS are why people move.. JOBS are why Detroit was a destination.. now lack of them is why it is a place people leave.
And all the tax breaks in the world will not create enough jobs in Detroit to rebuild its tax base to what it once was.
Sorry, while it is true lots of homes are no longer there, the abandoned homes are a huge problem. Unless you have actually been to detroit you can't remotely comprehend it. The scale and scope of abandoned and deteriorating properties, both homes and commercial is incredible... it literally looks like a war raged in the city and no one cleaned up afterwards.
In fact when people in Seriavo (who actually had a war happen) saw photos of parts of detroit, they asked if a war had indeed happened there.
Sorry SF is a dump... covered up by highly colorful flags.... I'll walk the streets of Chicago anyday over SF. Junkies everywhere, bums living in bus vestibules, homeless accosting you every other step. Every building in the downtown area has graphiti on it....
SF is a dump, makes a pretty postcard picture from far away, but once you walk around and actually spend some time in the city, you rapidly see what a dump it is.
Its like a rustbucket that puts a new coat of paint on itself regularly...
It was hillarious, the way the author pulled every ecsuse he could think of out...except the two you mentioned. LOL.
I'm glad, Sha. I hope you enjoy FreeRepublic. I have learned a lot here... there are a lot of smart people on this site. Welcome aboard!
Oh and I was born in Chicago and have watched that city being destroyed from within by both liberal politics and the deadly effects of racism. My family had lived in the city since the 1870s, but I would never live there now. It's heartbreaking to look at the ruins of Detroit... you can tell it was a nice place at one time.
See the link in post 73 for a tour of the ruins of Detroit. It's an amazing web site. My condolences for the demise of a once-great city.
Whattaya think the city property taxes are on one of them vacant lots are? My guess is pretty high. I wouldn't move into that city if the 'city fathers' gave me the lot, a new house, AND a job. The problem is sane people left it because the urban cities are controlled by racist alarmist extremists who think that they can tax whitey till he bleeds....
Ironically enough, Census Bureau headquarters is in Prince George's County, Maryland, which looks VERY similar to Detroit.
Sounds like a wonderful place to increase the population of muslims from throughout this country.
I know that Detroit is not Chicago or New york but we are in the process of rebuilding this city. We have things to offer. No our downtown area is not what it use to be but it is on the upswing. With new businesses opening, Hardrock cafe', the compuware building, we have our summer festivals, clubs, restaurants, The Fox theatre, our beautiful riverfront. Not to mention ice skating downtown at Campus Martius, the Casino, Our sports arenas i.e.Ford Field, Comerica. We are trying to improve our city it may take a while but I have faith that it will happen.
""Suburbanites are taking the bodies of their relatives out of cemeteries because they're afraid to come to the city," Vogel said. "There are about 400 to 500 hundred (being moved) a year...""
When former residents move the bones of their ancestors you know they have written off the city. This is a city that should be written off.
And--seriously--this isn't a Republican vs. Democrat issue; I really don't care WHO it is that is going to make the hard choices that are required to turn around a major city, but it just has to be done and there is NO incentive to do so when people continue to win elections with lip service.
The definition of stupid is continuing to do the same thing over and over while expecting different results. Welcome to Cleveland (and, I expect, Detroit).
That's part of it.
Also might have something to do with the grit, grime, economy, crowded, crime-filled streets, the smell of the air...I could go on.
I heard a comedian once comment on Detroit's crime. The comedian himself was black, saying "You know, I think it's hilarious when black people in Detroit blame crime on being oppressed by white people. How the f*** is that possible? There ain't no white people in Detroit!"
So Devil's Night was actually an excercise in caring for the city? ;-)
For me the crime rate and all that matters, but I like my open spaces. I'd rather have a home on a half acre of land on a quiet street than live in the city with the traffic, dirt, grime, AND CRIMINALS, and be so close to my neighbor I could touch his house from my bedroom window.
There was a study last summer that showed Detroit is now a "bedroom city." More people work in the city of Detroit than live there -- it actually gains population during the daytime.
Detroit has potential to improve but the city "leaders" have GOT to get out of the way. End the ridiculous red tape and taxes on small businesses in the city, straighten out that sorry excuse for public school management, rip Coleman Young's legacy out by the roots, and stop trying to rip off the suburbs by forcing them to pay for the city water Detroit residents use and WON'T pay for.
Sorry, but as a former Oakland County resident, Detroit still stinks like an open sewer.
A lot of the "white flight" may have racism in it's core, but the flight had a lot to do with *money.*
Real estate agents, knowing how to make a quick buck in Detroit, terrified residents with lines like, "a black is moving in next door, what do you think it will do to your homes' value? If you sell now, you'll lose less money than you would later!" The homeowner sold, the agent made a profit, turned around and sold it to a black family who couldn't afford it, turned around and sold it again as a foreclosure. This is why there are now very stringent laws about race and housing.
My in-laws grew up in Detroit during the late 40's and 50's. My MIL worked at a Sanders ice cream parlour in the evenings, closed it at the end of her shift and walked home! Many older former residents remember the Detroit they knew and are still grieving at its loss.I just wish I'd been taken to the downtown Hudsons building while it was still open. To see it demolished...it just made me cry.