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.
There are entire blocks in Youngstown, Ohio’s south side where there is one home surrounded by 20 vacant lots where old abandoned homes once were.
One thing killed Detroit - Coleman Young!
The effect of the riots could have been mitigated with a mayor who was not a communist race baiter. As for the auto industry, it has affected all of Michigan, but the suburbs are doing great with good schools, all services and very good housing.
Today, there are only 3 reasons to even go to Detroit. They are the Detroit Tigers, Red Wings and Lions and the Lions aren't much of a reason.
I disagree...it ain’t the schools, it ain’t the taxes.
It is the barriers to entry, in any business.
In other words, excessive regulation. Minimum living wage, single business tax, etc.
No, not neccessarily... you see cities don’t shrink.. their populations do.
The demand for services do not shrink proportionally with people drain.
Look at an arial photo of neighborhoods in detroit. There are blocks now, with only 3 houses left, on all 4 streets of the block... at one point that block would have 5 or 10 houses per side. Now all are gone but 3... but those same 4 streets need maintained, cleaned, plowed, etc etc etc... just as if that block still had 20-40 houses.
The problem with a declining city is, while the population declines, the geographical area doesn’t. Yes, less garbage needs picked up, but the same number of miles need to be driven to do so... etc etc etc.. You lose the economies of scale when you have a population decline....
I am not defending the liberal policies of Detroit and Michigan in general...they have helped contribute to the state and cities decline... however changing those alone will not bring back Detroit.
JOBS, and only JOBS will make Detroit a destination, and there is NO incentive to make the Detroit or even Michigan a destination for them.
Right to work status, lower taxes and better overall business climate will help, but thanks to “free trade” and the exportation of manufacturing that continues unabated, Detroit will never EVER be able to be remotely what it was.
Policy changes can help the state and the city, but I am not sure if the city will EVER be able to be self sufficient again without literally kicking out geographical sections of itself, and physically shrinking the city limits.
pueblo, colorado is the same.
Detroit has no way to offer homes to perspective buyers. We here in NYC would love to own a home. Greed has prevented this.
Enter the gov with its stick regulations on home buying.
History: When the post civil war Europeans first started buying land in America they did not care about location or utilities. They would build the home by hand. First living in a tent, Shanty, Once the basement was complete they’d move in.
Next: Hand labor with lots of help from neighbors to erect the walls. (1st fl)
Second, Editions to second floor, Dormers etc.
The whole process was not time related. The new land owners proceeded as money allowed.
After finishing the home they had something to live in. Later came the “grid” (electric, water, sewer, etc).
All this occurred prior to Ford Motors
Michigan was great for hunting/fishing.
Reason for people leaving Detroit: See every one’s examples.
What is needed is reasons to bring people back.
State and city laws forbid people to live in the abandoned houses until proper renovations are made.
Once the houses have been stripped of metal and electric they are in need of everything. $25,000 is not a bad estimate to make a abandoned house livable.
Idea! Allow individuals to live in the homes while fixing them up.
Keep out the investor/speculators, they do more harm than good.
Institute laws that make the buyer obligated to live in the home.
Detroit needs to open it’s eyes. It’s no longer a black/white thing that people have been implying.
Fact: Everyone wants a safe environment for kids.
Fact: Urban decay is in every great northern city.
Fact: The poor seem to have no access to foreclosures
Fact: Religious organizations have no funds to help.
Fact: Crime is a direct result of “having nothing to eat”
Fact: Whites will live anywhere they feel safe.
Fact: Failed cities can no longer depend on the Government for help.
Fact: So tied up are the courts that trying to get info on an abandoned house is impossible.
Fact: Loss of jobs is the “American Way Of Life” Without going into detail the Gov actually makes money off your loss.
Retro: Allow people to buy the homes and fix them up as they live in them. Place ad’s in high rent area’s like NYC. Lines of people will be waiting to move to Detroit.
Me: New Yorker sick and tired of high rents. Would love a fixer-upper in Detroit. I’ve contacted the local Gov and have hit one brick wall after another.
The future: It may take time but if Detroit reinvents itself properly it can re-attain greatness.
I have some answers but but no one to talk to.
Detroit's property tax rates are over twice the rates of Grosse Pointe and four times the rate of my area.
As far as the foundations and buildings comment at the end of this article, that's the saddest part of this article. Most of those old buildings are a lot better than those built today. Unfortunately, thanks to blight, disrepair, and everything else, it's gone down the crapper.
The big problems are jobs, schools, corruption in government, property taxes, and crime. The jobs is a regional problem here too. As far as schools go, Cass Tech and Renasannce should be the norm, not the exception. The corruption there between Wayne County and Detroit City governments makes me blush, and I've seen a lot. The taxes and regulations are so bad that it is cheaper for me to live in Grosse Pointe than the city of Detroit. As far as crime, it isn't as bad as it was, but still bad. My cousin was almost carjacked while working in Brightmoor (he floored his car). That area's been bad for 50 years, but my aunt and uncle's house were broken into in the Parkland area, and that's supposedly a good part of the city.
I hope your right, but I can't see Detroit making a comeback if they keep electing the same bums and their familes to office. I do have some hope for Ken Cockrel however. From what I can see out here, he seems to have a good head on his shoulder.
Correction - Middle Class (regardless of race) will live anywhere they feel safe.
Me: New Yorker sick and tired of high rents. Would love a fixer-upper in Detroit.
If you enjoyed "Escape from New York" or "The Road Warrior" you'll LOVE Detroit! There are nice areas but you pay dearly in those areas.