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Criminal Justice & Legal System

State lawmakers look to crack down on urban blight

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Many property owners who break anti-blight laws would face tougher penalties under bills approved Thursday in the state House. Under the legislation, the worst offenders could spend up to a year behind bars.

State Rep. Amanda Price (R-Park Township) says a number of Michigan cities have good anti-blight laws on the books. But she says the consequences for breaking those laws aren’t tough enough to deter people.         

“So it puts the teeth into what those cities are trying to do in eliminating blight,” said Price.

Senate Bills 35, 36, 37, 38 & 39 would only affect a handful of Michigan cities. But supporters say it’s a good step toward addressing the issue statewide.

“It will especially help with absentee landlords,” said House Democratic Leader Tim Greimel, “making sure that they have the incentive to clean up properties that they have, that they’re not allowing them to just sit there in a ramshackle condition, hurting other property owners who live nearby.”

But some critics say the measure doesn’t go far enough. They say it should also apply to banks that let foreclosed properties deteriorate.

The legislation easily cleared the state Senate earlier this year. The Senate must approve some changes made in the House before the bills can go to Governor Rick Snyder’s desk.