* Property owners offered adjacent vacant lots
* Offer includes a gift card to local lumber store
* Mayor still racing to avoid emergency manager
By John D. Stoll
Detroit March 7 Detroit Mayor Dave Bing,
under pressure to stanch cash outflows, unveiled a new plan
Wednesday night that would allow property owners in the city to
buy vacant city-owned lots for $200.
The initiative, which Bing said is designed to "reduce
blight in our neighborhoods," specifically targets 500 home
owners who have vacant city land sitting adjacent to their own
Detroit has made headlines in recent years due to
rock-bottom land values throughout much of the city, including
in historic neighborhoods with stately homes and relatively
solid safety records. Land carrying a minimum bid as low as $500
has gone unsold in recent auctions.
The $200-property sale was announced during Bing's annual
state of the city speech. The mayor of Michigan's largest city
is under intense pressure from the governor to cut costs and
craft a plan that can help the company run out of money in May.
Bing's administration has been scrambling in recent months
to cut costs and raise revenue to reduce a deficit of more than
$100 million. These cuts even affected the speech, which is
usually held at a ritzy auditorium in the Detroit's mid town
region, but was moved to city hall this year to trim costs.
Bing said the $200 land-purchase plan will eventually be
expanded to other parts of the city. In the first wave of the
plan, 500 residents were sent letters telling them to simply
sign an attached application and submit $200.
"No coming downtown," Bing said. "No added bureaucracy. The
city will mail back the deed."
As an added incentive, property owners participating in the
plan will receive a $200 gift card to the city's only
locally-owned lumber yard so they can put up fencing on the
Andre Spivey, a member of the Detroit city council,
applauded the initiative as "a good idea that will allow us to
get the land back on the tax rolls."
Detroit's tax base has been pummeled by population decline,
widespread foreclosures and a shrinking business community.
The lack of revenue, combined with rising retiree health
care and pension costs, has placed Bing and the city council
into a financial crisis that could lead to the appointment of an
emergency financial manager by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
Such a move would strip considerable power from elected leaders.
On Wednesday, during his speech, Bing reiterated his
opposition to that scenario. He said Detroit is taking necessary
steps to avoid running out of money, including wringing
concessions from unions and trimming city services.
Michigan Treasurer Andy Dillon is heading a team appointed
by Snyder to research whether the city needs an emergency
manager. Dillon will hold a public forum on Detroit's finances
in mid-March and submit a final recommendation by the end of the