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City takes lead on boarding up vacant Detroit homes

Workers board up a vacant home in southwest Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio
Workers board up a vacant home in southwest Detroit.

Abandoned homes are a familiar sight in many Detroit neighborhoods. And they aren’t just an eyesore. Left unsecured, those vacant properties can become magnets for crime.

But a new city program is hoping to change that.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says for years, the work of boarding up vacant homes fell to volunteers.

"The city would deliver plywood for free on the weekends, and the neighbors would volunteer,” he said at a press conference announcing Detroit's recently launched “board-up brigade.” 

The program will have city workers secure 11,000 abandoned homes over the next two years. The city has plans to hire 40 new employees to work on the project.

“Two or three months from now, you’re going to see 160 houses a week being boarded up in the city,” the mayor said.

The initiative is part of a larger effort in Detroit to deal with tens of thousands of blighted properties. The city has demolished almost 12,000 properties so far. But Duggan says getting nearly 25,000 homes that are still abandoned demolished or occupied will take around five years.

“And what our neighborhood leaders said is, ‘That’s fine, but in the meantime, you’ve got children going in and out of these houses. They’re a danger. Can’t you take action to secure the houses even if you’re not going to get to demolition for a few years?’” Duggan said.

The “board-up brigade” project is a $5 million dollar stopgap measure to keep houses safe as they wait to be sold or demolished. Right now, the city is asking block clubs and neighborhood associations which houses should be a priority.

Duggan says that there are already 4,000 properties on their list.

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