Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is taking another shot at convincing voters—and the Detroit City Council—to borrow $250 million for a blight elimination program.
The Council rejected Duggan’s initial plan to issue bonds for a sweeping demolition program last year. But Duggan said on Tuesday that this new plan is fundamentally different, and addresses council and community concerns.
Instead of focusing solely on demolitions, the city will prioritize saving and rehabbing 8,000 vacant homes, Duggan said. The plan, dubbed Proposal N, calls for cleaning out the homes, securing the exteriors, and fixing leaky roofs to prevent water damage.
Duggan said the actual rehab would be done in conjunction with community groups. “And we’re already talking to City Council about a policy that would give preference to the neighbors so the people who have been in the neighborhoods can get the first shot at these homes,” he said.
This new approach differs from Duggan’s initial plan, which called for using the $250 million to demolish the roughly 22,000 vacant homes the mayor says remain in the city. Duggan said after the 8,000 rehabs, the city will use the balance of the money to demolish another 8,000 homes that can’t be salvaged.
Since 2014, the Duggan administration has demolished nearly 20,000 vacant structures in Detroit, most with the help of federal funds. That demolition program has also been dogged by instances of corruption, a scathing audit, and was the subject of a federal investigation.
But Duggan said the bond money and demolition program will now be directly controlled by the city, rather than the Detroit Land Bank Authority. And he said contractors will need to follow rules that prioritize employing Detroiters.
“This is a way to create significant stimulus in the city of Detroit, at the same time that we improve our neighborhoods,” Duggan said.
Duggan said the city can pay for the bonds at existing tax rates. He wants the proposal on the November ballot, but needs to convince council members to approve it first.