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Detroit City Council approves massive property transfer to city land bank

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

The Detroit City Council has agreed to transfer more than 16,000 city owned properties to Detroit’s land bank authority.

The transfer allows Mayor Mike Duggan’s ambitious blight eradication efforts to move forward.

Duggan wants to use the non-profit land bank as a key tool in the fight against blight.

The agency has control of more than $50 million in federal funds to use for residential demolitions.

Duggan has also put the land bank in charge of deciding which vacant city-owned homes can be saved, and put up for auction.

The Council unanimously approved the land transfer—despite concerns from some members, like Saunteel Jenkins.

“For the city, and for everybody involved to say ‘land bank, take these 16,000 properties and move forward’…that’s a huge leap of faith,” Jenkins said.

But land bank director Erica Ward Gerson said the agency can launch an all-out assault on blight.

“The function of a land bank is to function outside of city government,” Gerson told Council. “To function with an efficiency, and a sort of private sector speed, [that can’t be] accomplished inside of the city. That is, after all, why you set up a land bank to begin with.”

Gerson told Council members it’s crucial to gain control of all these properties, because otherwise the land bank wouldn’t be able to use up the federal demolitions grant.

The Council did add some provisions to the final agreement, including one mandating that individuals seeking ten or more properties from the land bank get City Council approval.

Emergency manager Kevyn Orr still needs to approve the transfer.

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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