Detroit — The White House’s point person for Detroit said Thursday he expects federally funded blight removal in the city will ramp up in earnest in two months.
“The dollars are starting to flow that we’ve unlocked. We’ve been working very closely with the mayor on making sure that he has capacity within the city to rebuild the city’s administration,” said Don Graves, a White House and Treasury official who is the Obama administration’s representative in Detroit. “I think you’re going to see a lot going on.”
The Obama administration last year redirected $52.3 million in Michigan mortgage aid to Detroit for blight removal. It ended up being part of nearly $300 million in new, repurposed and freed-up grants from the Obama administration and private foundations to help the Motor City.
The blight removal task force is expected to complete a survey of all of the city’s properties within the next month. Then the task force and Mayor Mike Duggan’s team will “get some recommendations completed” in February, Graves said.
“In March, you are going to see a full ramp-up of the blight removal, demolition and deconstruction, so there’s going to be a lot going on leading into the spring,” he said.
In an interview after Vice President Joe Biden as he toured the North American International Auto Show on Thursday, Graves said the federal government is committed to helping the Motor City, which filed for a record-setting Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July.
“We’re trying to think about long-term strategy — how the federal government can best help the mayor — as he continues to drive economic growth in the city,” Graves said.
In June, the city said it had an estimated 66,000 vacant and blighted lots and 78,000 vacant structures.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is allocating $150 million to help Detroit fight blight.
Graves said a lot was going on behind the scenes.
Last week, three major police departments met with the Detroit Police Chief James Craig and his leadership team — and previously, municipal technology experts flew in to offer Detroit help, he said.
“We’re going to continue to have those types of fly-ins, bringing the types of experience and knowledge and best practices we’ve seen around the country — and applying them here in Detroit,” Graves said.