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.
AND the crime rate.. They are always in the top ten for Murder Capital.
i am white...i grew up in the suburbs of detroit...i later lived in the city...in the suburbs(warren, hazel park ect.) blacks are referd to by the n word and are veiwed as stupid lazy criminals...i’ve seen police in royal oak harrass blacks and say they needed to go back across 8mile...in the city you can find things such as “no whites” spray painted on the sides of buildings...the crime in detroit is because of the poverty...the poverty because there is not much in the way of work esp for blacks...i worked at a machine shop on e.seven mile in detroit and the employees were 100% white suburbanites...if a black came to apply we were told to say we were not hiring even if we were...that was in 1999...even as i read these posts i hear echos of the racism i grew up around...
Is that you Eminem?
Must be “Resurrect Old Thread” day.
Can’t be any worst than Baltimore, with blocks of row-homes abandon.
Nobody fitting that profile would voluntarily live in Detroit. That's like asking a sheep to voluntarily live among hungry wolves.
A “home” implies someone lives there. A house is a building.
A new low for liberal lying academics: dead people can now feel fear!
It’s funny how the Democrats have run that cesspool for years. It continues to decline under their rule.
Yet the stupid citizens haven’t thought that maybe some new leadership is in order.
If Detroit could get a Mayor Giuliani...I bet you’d be surprised what could happen...and keep in mind, for President, I’m no Rudy fan. But he did clean up NYC, and bet a guy like him could do wonders for Detroit too.
Sure as hell couldn’t make it any worse, anyway.
I actually saw a home in Detroit for sale for a hundred bucks.
Sh*t, I’d buy 10 of them and figure if I lost money, so what...but if Detroit ever did turn around, whooooa, Nelly!
Another ivory tower denizen weighs in. Central planning, so beloved by collectivists, is the answer! Did Margaret Dewar think about informing the Detroit municipal government of her bright ideas?
Well, at least their voting rate tops 100+% every four years.
Sometime in the past year I have read a figure of 40,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit.
The solution to dorothy’s problem is really pretty simple. Have her husband set out rat traps and make her kids wear gas masks to ward off the lead fumes.
Here’s an idea:
-Send all welfare recipients to Mexico.
Problem solved. Two, actually.
You forgot New Orleans...
People talk of a revolution in America where we re-claim our Second Amendment rights.
Instead of that, why not do it to Detroit? Overthrow the city government, kick out the welfare queens to a faraway place (like Mexico) and start over?
Youngstown, OH is a mini-Detroit in that aspect.
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