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Bing touts expansion of "white picket fence" program

Mayor Dave Bing is expanding a city program that helps city residents buy vacant lots next to their homes.

Bing first announced the initiative—now dubbed the “white picket fence program”—in his state of the city address early this year.

City officials say a pilot program in southwest Detroit has been successful, and they’re now expanding to Detroit’s historic North End area.

There are an estimated 60,000 vacant lots in Detroit, blighting many communities.

But for a long time, it was near-impossible for an average resident to affordably buy lots in their neighborhoods.

But the pilot program—which allows homeowners to buy adjacent lots for just $200—has been a success.

Bing says the city would like to expand the program even more, but they’re taking it step-by-step.

“We just don’t have the people to get this done as quick as we would like to,” Bing said. “But we want to make sure we do it right. And I think what we do here in southwest Detroit will be a blueprint we can take to other parts of the city.

“Nine months ago, this was just a dream, a vision, an idea. Today, it’s a reality.”

Brad Dick, the city’s General Services director, says that in addition to expanding the program to other areas, they’re also working to expand it so residents could purchase non-adjoining lots in their neighborhood.

Dick says they’ve had a good response so far in the southwest pilot area, where about 100 of 300 available lots have been snapped up.

“The next step is also looking at lots that aren’t next door, but offering them to people in the neighborhood,” Dick said. “And then I think we’ve got a really good way to roll it out more broadly across the city.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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