Duggan defends blight funds
Detroit — Mayor Mike Duggan on Wednesday defended the city’s use of federal blight funding in the wake of a government report that claims oversight in Michigan and several other states is lacking.
“Every penny is accounted for,” said Duggan, noting the city administration files quarterly reports with the City Council and that every dollar spent is reviewed by state agencies.
The mayor added that he’s been to Washington, D.C., twice for national presentations about the city’s blight efforts. He also intends to ask for additional funds during an anticipated visit with U.S. Treasury next week.
“Detroit is now being held up as a role model both operationally and environmentally in the way that we are doing these demolitions,” Duggan said. “So what you’ve got is a philosophical debate in Washington. It has nothing to do with the way the program is being done.”
The report, produced by the special inspector general overseeing the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program, says Treasury should keep a closer eye on the funds that were initially set aside for helping struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure, and to be used for blight removal.
Treasury officials defend their oversight of the blight program, saying it’s monitored like other programs. The state program is run by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which reimburses funds spent on demolition after receiving documentation that the work was done.
Michigan was the first state approved to use funds for the project — $100 million announced in June 2013. Last year, Michigan added another $75 million. Treasury has since approved programs in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, South Carolina, and Alabama.