Housing Detroit 

The City of Detroit is putting together its first comprehensive housing plan, according to Tom Walters, executive manager for the Planning and Development Department. P&DD submitted the first part of the plan to the City Council last week.

"It puts out in a definitive way where the city and the private sector should concentrate its efforts," says Walters.

The plan came about after P&DD asked the council to approve its request for $60 million to demolish abandoned buildings. Council members said they would not release the funds until the department put together a broad housing plan.

Some members gave immediate feedback. Councilman Nicholas Hood III suggested that P&DD work with nonprofit housing groups which he said built homes during Detroit’s tough times. "Much of the housing in the lean years from 1967 to 1993 was done by nonprofit housing groups and we need to not negate that and realize they are a viable partner," he said.

In the last decade, according to the report, few new housing units were built, and the city lost on average more than 5,000 units annually. Today 57 residential projects, making up about 4,700 housing units, are in progress in Detroit and represent more than $616 million in investments, the report states.

Part 1 of the plan lays out general goals which include preserving housing stock, encouraging new construction, increasing housing demand, home owners and the city’s tax base, expanding housing services for seniors and the homeless, linking development to employment, and removing blight.

Walters says the strategy attempts to address "market shocks" such as the fallout caused by the recent bankruptcy of MCA Financial Corp. and RIMCO. MCA owned about 3,500 rental homes in Detroit and Highland Park that RIMCO managed. Many of the homes are in poor condition and the city fears that they could hurt the city’s property values and tax base. Walters says the housing plan can’t predict problems like those caused by MCA and RIMCO. But he says the plan encourages home ownership, which can help prevent a similar catastrophe.

He says the city is working with Wayne County to create a nonprofit group to manage between 1,500 and 2,000 of the former RIMCO properties and sell hem to individuals. That plan has not been finalized.

Although some housing advocates said the policy needs public input, Walters says that is up to the council. Part 2 of the policy, to include specific plans for neighborhoods, is to be presented to the council at the end of October.

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