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EDITORIAL

Our Editorial: Detroit’s blight progress

DetroitNews

Nearly 6,000 blighted structures in Detroit have been demolished since January 2014, and those demolitions have increased the value of surrounding homes, according to a recent report on the efforts.

Other measures to improve quality of life and value of property in the city — code enforcement, sales of public side lots, even the installation of new street lights — have also helped pushed home values higher.

That news is critical to Detroit’s future. But the work isn’t done yet.

Widespread blight has pushed residents out of the city, and blighted homes and neighborhoods have served as havens for drug activity, arson and other crimes. Progress made on blighted homes not only improves the immediate property value, but also brings a value added to neighborhoods as a whole by weeding out squatters and criminals in hiding. Safer neighborhoods will attract new residents to the city.

The report, commissioned by Rock Ventures and the Skillman Foundation, says the value of homes within 500 feet of blighted structures has increased 4 percent, an average of $1,100. Citywide that amounts to an increase of more than $209 million.

Two burned out houses on East Philadelphia in Detroit earlier this year.

Code enforcement and other efforts have increased home values almost 14 percent, or an average of $3,600, and citywide an increase in property value of $410 million, according to the report.

Those accomplishments are meaningful for Detroit, which hasn’t seen that kind of effective effort to revitalize.

But demolitions account for just 10 percent of blighted structures in the city. Of the more than 80,000 properties the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force identified as needing intervention, 15 percent of those — or 12,000 — have been impacted by reinvestment strategies.

Tens of thousands of remaining structures still need to be torn down or otherwise dealt with.

Mayor Mike Duggan visited Washington, D.C., last week on a number of issues affecting Detroit, one of which was to seek from Treasury officials an extension of the “Hardest Hit Fund,” which has financed much of the blight work. Detroit had received more than $107 million in those funds as of July.

But the funding is set to expire at the end of the year. Duggan is requesting an extension until at least April.

It’s reasonable to request more funding from the federal government, but Duggan shouldn’t expect Washington to carry all of Detroit’s burden.

“We need $400-$500 million,” to remove all blight in Detroit, Duggan told The Detroit News. “No one can provide such funding other than the federal government.”

There’s still some state money available from the distress fund and tax increment financing subsidies that could go toward blight demolition.

Duggan should also continue to search for private funding to finance the efforts, or develop incentive programs to get more Detroit residents involved in cleaning up the properties.

Removing Detroit blight is one of the most essential steps in re-establishing liveable neighborhoods.