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Detroit Survival Depends on Speed of Destruction

Pulte Says Destroying Homes Key to Detroit Survival
William Pulte says the only way to truly save Detroit and get the housing market functioning properly again is to destroy large swaths of the city as quickly as possible.
Enlarge image Detroit Survival Depending on Destruction of Housing
An abandoned home in Detroit, Michigan, on February 24, 2013. Photographer: J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
Enlarge image William Pulte
Pulte Capital Partners LLC managing partner William Pulte stands for a photograph in one of the 10 blocks the nonprofit Detroit Blight Authority program has cleaned in Detroit. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
“We’re trying to do total blight elimination,” Pulte said, standing in the middle of the blocks his group cleared in February. “You can go tear down one home here and then tear down one in another area, but if you go into one area and take down everything, that’s what really makes a difference.”
Housing markets in Detroit and other rustbelt cities such as Cleveland and Buffalo are hampered by decaying, vacant homes even as sales of existing homes hover around a three-year high nationally. Pilfering of vacant units in urban areas cut the number of U.S. homes with complete plumbing by about 10.4 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to U.S. Census data compiled by Bloomberg, including 66,722 such homes alone in Detroit.

Unmanageable City

Blight has made Detroit unmanageable. As the tax base shrinks, the cost of municipal services such as police and fire protection, bus service and garbage collection, stays the same or even rises. Sparsely populated neighborhoods see increases in crime and fires, including arsons. The state has appointed bankruptcy attorneyKevyn Orr as emergency financial manager to take over the city finances and he has said bankruptcy is an option to lessen the burden of about $15 billion in debt.
“We have a city built for 2 million and only 700,000 people living here,” said John George, who has run the grassroots Motor City Blight Busters organization for the last quarter century, tearing down about 300 dwellings mostly by hand in the city’s impoverished Brightmoor neighborhood. “We have to get rid of what we don’t want, don’t need and can’t use.”

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