Editorial: Land Bank best blight fix
Detroit City Council is trying to retain control of tens of thousands of vacant properties throughout the city by delaying a vote on selling the unused land for more efficient and valuable means.
With almost 85,000 blighted parcels within Detroit’s city limits, the council shouldn’t expect to be deeply involved with each transfer of property. There’s simply too much land to be dealt with.
It should also be looking for ways to quickly revitalize properties and increase the city’s tax base, particularly as it emerges from bankruptcy.
The council Friday turned down a proposal from Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr to transfer up to 45,000 parcels to the Detroit Land Bank Authority, which has been tasked with acquiring and selling off vacant parcels throughout the city.
The land bank has been effectively auctioning off properties, approximately 200 homes so far, for several months under Mayor Mike Duggan’s initiative. Another program that sells vacant properties that are adjacent to lived-in properties for $100 has also been active for a couple of months.
Transferring properties to the land bank would speed up the process for revitalizing these properties, and increase the chance they can bring in tax revenue for the city. The council currently has some control over land agreements under the City Charter. But since the parcels are already considered delinquent, council approval holds up progress on dealing with these properties.
The council should relinquish its power to those who effectively deal with such properties every day. Under the emergency manager law, Orr can still move forward with the proposal despite council denial. He should give the council another opportunity to get this right.
Councilwoman Saunteel Jenkins recommended a compromise: a provision that reverts the properties back to the city after a year if plans don’t move forward as promised.
That’s a reasonable solution, and certainly one the council should consider if it won’t give the Land Bank control over the thousands of properties.
After some negotiating, the council last week approved a revised proposal to transfer about 300 vacant parcels to the Land Bank for $1.4 million. The money will go toward the proposed new bridge between Detroit and Canada. And the revised proposal requires half the proceeds to be invested in the Delray community, where the bridge will be built.
It’s a smart move by the council. The bridge will offer jobs and new opportunities for that community, and the vote still takes residents’ concerns into account.
A concern of all Detroit residents is effectively dealing with blight. Giving the land to the Land Bank will speed up that process. Dealing with 40,000 parcels is a job bigger than the council can handle, and it should recognize its limitations in handling such large swaths of delinquent land in a way that best serves Detroit.