Nowhere in America bulldozes derelict homes with Detroit’s ferocity, as the city that has become a byword for U.S. urban decay seeks to engineer a recovery by tearing itself down.
A year after the city exited the biggest-ever U.S. municipal bankruptcy, a plan to demolish half of its nearly 80,000 blighted or deteriorating structures — nearly one in three city buildings — is showing some signs of success.
The number of fires – often caused by arson attacks on abandoned homes – dropped in October from a year ago, and deeply depressed property values have ticked higher in areas close to demolitions. The aim of the program is to stabilize home values and reduce foreclosures as the city of 680,000 people struggles with emptying neighborhoods, high crime and one of the worst unemployment rates in the country.
But the federally backed program has been tainted by allegations that Mayor Mike Duggan favored demolition contractors who donated to his campaign and by a steep rise in costs.
Federal and city probes into the allegations are underway. Duggan, whose program has razed more than 7,000 homes in two years, denies any wrongdoing.
“I am proud of the work our team has done, and Detroiters should be, as well,” said Duggan, who took office in January 2014 as Detroit’s first white mayor in nearly 40 years.