Detroit Sells Homes for $1,000

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Detroit has maintained a small, and largely unsuccessful program called “Building Detroit” that allows people to buy homes for as little as $1,000 at auction, just as the City of Detroit bulldozes thousands of homes. The low-priced home purchases come with a long list of provisions, which likely plays a role in why the plan has been so unsuccessful. The demolition program has, on the other hand, been successful.

The city even keeps a website to track Detroit demolitions. As a sign of how dire Detroit’s situation is, the city has lost half its population since the 1960s, and it has less than 700,000 residents today.

According to the site called Detroit Demolition Program, the city as taken down 10,268 houses. One of the stated purposes of the site is to:

Search the new Detroit Demolition Tracker to find the status of upcoming demolitions around your house.

It also trumpets the program’s benefits:

More than $90 million in demolition contracts have been awarded to Detroit-based and Detroit-headquartered businesses, more than $25 million of which has been awarded to minority-owned businesses. And more federal funding is on the way.

The U.S. EPA has recognized the high environmental standards used by the City of Detroit, saying, “Having completed a major overhaul of the demolition process, Detroit’s new demolition practices balance speed, cost and environmental performance.” (September 8, 2014)

In the past two years, Detroit has taken down 10,268 vacant buildings in neighborhoods across the city. If we keep this pace, we can remove 40,000 blighted structures in about eight years, instead of the 30 years it would have taken us at our previous rate.

A recent study shows that Detroit’s approach of strategically clustering demolitions in target areas has resulted in an increase in property values in those areas.

Building Detroit keeps a running list of Daily Auctions. This allows potential buyers the opportunity to look at houses for sale at $1,000. Then a bidding process begins. A large number of the homes have square footage of just above 1,000, or less. Many have two or three bedrooms and a single bath. Many of these homes are in sections south of 7 Mile Road and and not far from the South Field Freeway.

One of the reasons Building Detroit has not done better is likely the very long list of requirements to participate. Among them: