Detroit gets another $88M to aid in blight fight

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit’s getting another $88 million for its blight fight, while a $17.6 million boost is on the way for Flint, state housing officials said Wednesday.

The U.S. Treasury Department approved the allocation plan under its Hardest Hit Fund program. In total, Michigan was awarded $188.1 million in federal blight dollars in April as part of the latest round of funding.

Besides Detroit and Flint, $11.7 million in blight funds will be sent to other communities through a competitive application process, officials said. Other dollars will be directed toward foreclosure prevention and homeowner assistance.

“The strategic use of these dollars will greatly benefit Michigan homeowners and strengthen communities, resulting in positive progress for people across the state,” Gov. Rick Snyder said in a statement.

Cities with a population of less than 50,000 will be able to apply for awards ranging from $250,000 to $1 million. Others can apply for $1 million to $5 million.

“In putting together the plan, we placed a priority on using the majority of funds in the areas of greatest need and where we have been most successful,” said Kevin Elsenheimer, director of the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

“We remain committed to providing a holistic solution to the state’s foreclosure problem by helping individual homeowners and by stabilizing local housing markets in Detroit and Flint, where vacancy rates remain the highest.”

In the opening of his address Wednesday at the 37th Mackinac Policy Conference, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan talked about affordable housing opportunities and plans to reinvent city neighborhoods with transportation, converting vacant lots to wildflower meadows and revitalized housing.

He also touted the latest infusion of federal dollars being directed toward demolition projects in the city and reiterated plans to take down about 11,000 more homes by the end of next year.

“Over and over, the neighborhoods are coming back,” he said. “This is transforming this city every single day. It’s getting a little bit cleaner and a little bit better. We’ve got to reshape the landscape.”

So far, 9,102 homes have come down, he said, adding “we had bumps” but “pure hearts.”

Detroit’s demolition program is the subject of several ongoing audits and reviews. Federal investigators have subpoenaed for documents. Last month, the FBI’s Detroit office also acknowledged it’s investigating the program.

On Wednesday, the mayor did not delve into scrutiny over bidding and costs associated with the demolition effort and the pending federal and city reviews.

The federal government in February made a $2 billion commitment to the Hardest Hit Fund, which was created to assist homeowners facing foreclosure in the wake of the Great Recession and mortgage industry meltdown but was later expanded to allow spending on blight prevention.

Michigan originally received $498 million from the fund when the program was announced in 2010.

Michigan has until December 31, 2020, to use all of the funds.