Survey: Detroit Needs $850 Million Just to Clear Abandoned Homes

Survey: Detroit Needs $850 Million Just to Clear Abandoned Homes

With a new wide-ranging survey of every lot and building in Detroit, the once burgeoning Motor City is being told that it will have to spend $850 million to dig itself out of the blight infesting the city. And that is just the first step.

It will cost hundreds of millions more to finish the job.

Detroit was once a metropolis teeming with 1.8 million residents. Now it has less than half that living within its borders. The people are gone, of course, but the buildings they left behind are still there, falling apart, catching fire, becoming infested with vermin, and serving as both an eyesore and a health hazard – not to mention a psychological dampener – to everyone. This is called blight, and it is something that Detroit must eliminate to regain any semblance of health.

Detroit is burdened with more acreage of blight than any city in American history, and a new block-by-block study shows just how bad it is.

A joint federal, city, and state task force has done a survey of every inch of the Motor City and discovered that fully 30 percent of it is filled with dilapidated, crumbling buildings that must be torn down.

That is 84,641 building spread out over all 139 square miles of the city that need to be eliminated, The New York Times reports. The study also found that 90 percent of the city-owned parcels are blighted.

This $850 million is only the beginning, a starting point that will deal with the blight of abandoned single-family homes or small complexes. This huge cost doesn’t address the 559 empty, abandoned, dilapidated manufacturing buildings that can no longer be used and must be torn down.

“These structures are unique because of their larger size and their potential for greater environmental issues than other structures,” the Times said the report affirms. “The cost of demolishing just a single large industrial building can run into the tens of millions of dollars,” the paper says.

Mayor Mike Duggan says that the plan is to begin with the least blighted areas. Those areas can be fixed up first, and then politicians hope that people will move from the other blighted areas to the newly renovated areas so that the city can concentrate its services over smaller areas.

How this sort of forced migration will occur has yet to be contemplated.

Still, where will all this money come from? Detroit is a bankrupt city and hasn’t the funds for police and fire services, much less for tearing down and disposing of the debris from thousands of abandoned buildings.

The city itself and the state of Michigan is relying on the federal government for much of this money, naturally. So, the American taxpayer from Maine to Florida and all points west will be on the hook to bail out Detroit after decades of failed political policies that helped run the once vital city into a near universal condition of blight.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at


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