- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 19, 2016

DETROIT (AP) - A two-story, wood-frame house on Tuesday became the 10,000th vacant building torn down under Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s massive plan to eliminate blight as the city continues dealing with abandoned properties following a population decline.

An excavator was used to quickly tear down the house on Marlowe Street on Detroit’s northwest side. The demolition of 10,000 buildings is another win in a yearslong battle to improve Detroit neighborhoods.

A blight task force survey in 2014 revealed more than 40,000 structures needed demolition with another 38,000 tipping toward blight. Duggan, whose blight program started 2½ years ago, called 10,000 “a remarkable accomplishment.”

“But we still have 30,000 to go,” he told reporters at the demolition site. “The magnitude of the blight problem in this city is enormous, but instead of whining about it we got to work at it.”

Detroit’s population appears to be stabilizing after dropping to about 680,000 since 2000 - a decrease of more than 250,000 people. Many homes left empty after families moved away and those lost to foreclosure during the housing crisis became the targets of arsonists and metal thieves. Tens of thousands lost resale value once they were gutted of plumbing, electrical wiring, windows and fixtures.

Of the 10,000 buildings razed under Duggan, about 98 percent were houses, city spokesman John Roach said.

The city, which exited the nation’s largest municipal bankruptcy in December 2014, relies on money from the federal Hardest Hit Fund to remove blight and tear down houses. It’s received about $258 million so far. Duggan said Tuesday that there’s enough funding to cover about 8,000 more demolitions through 2017.

Detroit demolished about 10,000 houses and other buildings during the administration of its previous mayor, Dave Bing.

The city now averages about 150 demolitions per week, compared to about 25 per week before Duggan began serving as mayor. At the current pace and if federal funding continues at the same level, clearing Detroit of the vacant houses it has now could take about six more years, Duggan’s office said.

“It took us awhile to really get the hang of this, and I won’t tell you we’re perfect,” Duggan said. “But we’re moving much more efficiently than anybody else in the country, and for the folks on this block, I don’t think it could come too soon.”

Sybie Fason, 39, said Tuesday that she is thrilled the beaten-down house across from her home on Marlowe Street is now gone.

“It looked like it had been burned, windows were broken, the porch was caving in,” she said. “You could see where people had been going in and out.”

Fason, who has an 8-year-old son, said she appreciates all that Duggan has done in the blight fight, but “there is still work to do.”

Tackling the blight problem always comes down to funding, said Donna Givens, chief executive of the Eastside Community Network, a leader in community development programs on Detroit’s east side.

“There is never enough money for what you need to do,” Givens said. “A lot of houses need to come down. Nobody should have to live next to a vacant, open, burned house that presents a physical danger to children. It pains me that people have to live in neighborhoods and on blocks and see that every day.”

Finding a way to do something with the land where vacant houses stood is just as important as the demolition, she added.

“It’s not just about removing blight, it’s about replacing what you’re taking away,” she said.

The city’s land bank auctions off Detroit-owned homes that are salvageable and works with community groups and others on rehab work. Banks also are extending loan and grant programs to people looking to buy houses in Detroit.

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