Snyder OKs blight funding for 12 Michigan cities

Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Gov. Rick Snyder on Friday announced the U.S. Treasury has authorized use of $75 million to combat blight in 12 Michigan cities.

The plan, created by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and approved by its board, will aid a number of Wayne County cities including Detroit, Highland Park, Ecorse, River Rouge, Inkster and Hamtramck.

Others are Adrian, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron, officials said.

The blight funding allocation comes after last year’s kickoff of the largest residential blight removal program in the state’s history, when Snyder announced the nation’s first U.S. Treasury-approved program.

The effort allowed MSHDA to use $100 million of its federal Hardest Hit Fund allocation for blight elimination including Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Pontiac. More than half of the funds — $52 million — was directed toward six target areas in Detroit.

“Michigan blight elimination strategy has become a national model,” Snyder said in a Friday statement. “For too long, blight has driven down property values and stifled growth in some of our communities. This additional funding will expand the positive efforts already taking root in cities across our state, and we appreciate the support of our federal partners.”

Added U.S. Treasury Deputy Secretary Sarah Bloom Raskin: “This federal, state and local partnership demonstrates a commitment to revitalizing our cities and to addressing the damaging effects caused by vacant and blighted properties. Removing blighted properties is an important step in stabilizing neighborhoods, and we look forward to continuing our efforts to assist hardest hit communities around the nation.”

The eligible cities for the Hardest Hit Funds were selected by MSHDA based on an evaluation system that included residential housing vacancy rates, officials said.

MSHDA is scheduling meetings this month with the selected cities to discuss the process for submitting remediation plans, estimating project costs and establishing time lines, among other considerations.

“Abandoned and blighted homes create significant safety concerns for citizens and businesses, depress home values and strain community resources,” MSHDA acting Executive Director Wayne Workman said. “Expanding this program will further stem the tide of foreclosures, stabilize property values and help revitalize these cities block by block.”

Officials say the state’s latest anti-blight effort comes from $498 million the state was allocated in 2010 as part of the HHF program, designed to assist homeowners in the states most affected by the housing crisis.

More than 22,000 families in the state have received assistance since July 1, when MSHDA launched the Step Forward Michigan program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, stabilize the state’s housing market and improve the economy.

MSHDA estimates that all of its remaining Step Forward Michigan funds may be allocated by June 2016.