- Associated Press - Sunday, November 23, 2014

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Vacant houses. Pontiac has them. So does Flint. And Detroit has lots.

But tiny Ironwood in Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula has them, too. The small community of about 5,300 people is among a dozen awaiting a decision by state housing officials on how much of $75 million in federal funds will be steered its ways for demolitions.

An answer will come next month from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, which is doling out the money as part of the state’s blight elimination strategy.

Ironwood has asked for $700,000 to raze aging housing stock that over the years has deteriorated and become blighted, Community Development Director Michael J.D. Brown said.

Brown said much of Ironwood’s housing stock was built in the early 1900s when the area’s iron ore mines ran full bore. The city’s last iron mine closed in 1965. Jobs disappeared and the population dropped.

“There is … a lot of properties. Something needs to be done with them,” Brown said. “There are a large percentage of low- to moderate-income people. There is not a lot of funding to take care (of the older houses).”

The $75 million is part of nearly $500 million Michigan was allocated in 2010 through a federal program to help homeowners hit hard by the national housing crisis.

Detroit, Ecorse, Highland Park, River Rouge, Inkster, Hamtramck, Adrian, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron also will receive funding. The cities were selected by the state through an evaluation system that included residential housing vacancy rates.

Each had to submit blight plans, estimate project costs and provide a timeline for the work.

Officials are working out the final details on which cities would receive how much, said Katie Bach, state housing development authority spokeswoman.

“I think this additional funding will help create some positive results in communities where changes are already taking root - and in new communities we haven’t had the opportunity to help before,” Bach said.

This round of funding follows $100 million from the federal Hardest Hit Fund in 2013 for blight efforts in Detroit, Flint, Saginaw, Grand Rapids and Pontiac.

Detroit has applied for $50 million of the current $75 million allotment. That would cover 3,100 demolitions, said Craig Fahle, spokesman for the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

“This federal money has been absolutely vital in helping us kick-start our plans to fight blight in the city of Detroit,” Fahle said. “We will continue our mission that started with the original federal funding.”

The city has more than 40,000 vacant structures. The federal government already has awarded Detroit’s Land Bank $52 million to tear down at least 3,300 of them.

Another $420 million - saved by the city through its historic bankruptcy - also will be used to raze vacant houses and clear lots.

The city’s land bank is averaging about 200 demolitions a week.


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