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Taking It To the Bank

Here's a good piece on how the state is gearing up to use various land bank programs to take over blighted properties in assorted Michigan cities and counties.

There's also an effort to encourage urban gardeners to develop empty city lots and allow homeowners to buy inexpensive vacant lots next to their property. "We expect (Detroit's land bank) to be the most aggressive developer in the city," said Douglas Diggs, interim director of the city's land bank office.

I hope the city does meet these expectations. Right now, I'm hearing that there's far too much prime property being cherry picked by speculators with no real interest in the city or its long-term revitalization. Meanwhile, people who would actually buy some of these homes and live in them are being left with the chaff. I'm not against the free market, generally speaking anyway, but the free market alone isn't going to return Detroit to any semblance of glory. The city needs a plan, preferably one that works in conjunction with a state plan for our turnaround. Good to see there's talk of true, broad, multi-regional coordination going on...at least by most...

Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, chair of the state's land bank authority, is pushing for a county land bank, but the idea has not yet been officially endorsed by officials, including county executive L. Brooks Patterson and the county Board of Commissioners. Patterson has spoken out against the programs, and last week he bristled at the notion that the affluent county is in the same boat as a community like Flint.

"There's a world of difference," Patterson said. "They have a lot more industrial and commercial property in default and bankruptcy than we do."

Something about this comment reminds me of when I was growing up and, even though all of our families were struggling, nobody wanted to own up to actually being poor. Never mind that many of our parents were collecting welfare or unemployment checks. It was always those other kids who we'd laugh at for not having a pot to piss in.

In that same vein, it seems to me that Patterson's remark casts Oakland County as the household whose mother still has her part-time job at Kroger, even though daddy's been pink-slipped from Budd. Glad you can eat a little better than some others for now. But a place that just watched the Pontiac Silverdome get sold off for about 1 percent of what it cost to build the place—in the 1970s, no less—probably shouldn't act like it's only those other kids who need the helping hand.

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