Saturday, January 01, 2005

Detroit Establishes "Blight Court"

Click for larger version.
AP reports that Detroit is following in the lead of Chicago in the establishment of a "blight court."

It is essentially an administrative court that has significant legal powers to fine, garnish wages, place liens, and other penalties on property owners who do not meet code violations.

This is a great idea, since previously, complaints about specific properties had to work their way through the regular municipal courts. Criminal courts in the city are overburdened and these types of cases were often not a high priority.

Now, community residents can have a more responsive forum to penalize irresponsible landlords. This is especially hopeful for Detroit--a city with a remarkable architectural heritage, but whose urban landscape is a pretty poor state of decay.

Abandoned and unkempt properties can kill a neighborhood--particularly when there is not a high proportion of local, residential property owners. For many low income residents of Detroit where decent paying jobs are limited, homeownership is often out of reach. Banks are also less enthusiastic about providing mortgages in distressed neighborhoods.

If local residents have the ability to get city government to enforce code violations--which the "blight court" is designed to accomplish--it can contribute to the revitalization of Detroit's neighborhoods.

Above is a map of Detroit's percentage of vacant properties by census tract with the darker green cooresponding to the higher percentage of vacant properties. If you click on the image to make it larger, you can clearly see spatial concentration of these blighted neighborhoods in the center city--something that should come as no surprise as anyone who has visited those neighborhoods. The darkest green areas have between 40% & 57% vacant/abandoned properties!

* Update* (Linked to Outside the Beltway)