Detroit — A neighborhood improvement plan that would include a $250 million bond proposal on the ballot in November was introduced Tuesday by Mayor Mike Duggan and other city officials.

The plan — called Proposal N, as in neighborhoods — would save 8,000 vacant but structurally sound houses and demolish 8,000 structures that can’t be saved. The city would commit to a goal of awarding more than 50% of all contracts to Detroit companies.

“This will transform the quality of life in the neighborhoods in this city if we secure 8,000 houses and move families in and get rid of the 8,000 burned-out houses that can’t be saved,” Duggan said during a press conference. “We believe all of this is possible and we’re going to put people to work.”

Detroit City Council is expected to consider in the next two weeks whether to put the bond proposal on the Nov. 3 ballot. If voters approve the proposal, bonds would go to market in December, officials said.

According to the city, the bond can be sold without raising property taxes by phasing in new debt payments as other debt drops off.

The latest proposal follows the City Council’s rejection last fall of Duggan’s previous $250 million plan aimed at erasing blight. At the time, some city council members cited unresolved questions and concerns including long-running federal criminal investigation into the city’s demolition program.

The new proposal puts more priority on saving structurally sound houses, officials said. 

According to the city, there are 14,000 houses that require demolition.  Under the latest proposal, 8,000 can be demolished during the next three years. The city plans to seek other funding to complete the rest of the demolitions in 2023 and 2024.

Contractors will be required to either employ Detroiters by complying with the city’s executive order requiring that 51% of all hours on the job be worked by Detroiters — or they must pay into Detroit’s job training funds or the contractor will agree to interview Detroiters first for job openings from a list of applicants provided by the city’s Detroit at Work program.

“We’re going to be able to knock down homes in our most challenged neighborhoods, in our most low-income neighborhoods — the areas that didn’t see these types of resources in the past,” Councilman Scott Benson said.

“We’re going to be able to hire our residents who are going to be looking for jobs. As the monies run out on the 25th of July from the federal government, you’re going to see a great change in people’s economic standing within the city of Detroit. It’s important that we give people a chance to invest and rebuild their own communities.”

City Councilman Andre Spivey said Tuesday that after the council rejected the mayor’s previous proposal, he asked for a more robust plan that would include renovation and providing more opportunities for local demolition contractors.

“I support this plan,” he said. “I’m ready to vote on it when the time does come. I still receive phone calls from residents who live near a vacant house, and it is leaning close to their home. I still have residents who cannot get homeowners insurance on their property because they live in an area where they have too many vacant homes. This plan will help take care of that.”

Securing the 8,000 houses that would be saved would first involve cleaning out the structures, installing secure exterior covering over doors and windows, and fixing holes in roofs.

“It adds value to anybody that wants to buy it,” Duggan said. “We’ll probably put $10,000 or so into securing the outside, fixing the roof. That means for anybody who to buy that house, we’ve added $10,000 of value right off the bat. It makes it far more attractive to the community groups. And if you’re a buyer, you can put in plumbing and furnace and not have to be nearly as worried that somebody is going to come in and steal them because we have a secure exterior system in place.”

George Preston, president of the Mohican Regent Resident Association, said Tuesday he’s pleased to hear of the plans. Preston has lived in his eastside neighborhood for almost 40 years. One concern among neighbors is blighted vacant properties, he said.  

“We try to do our part in terms of trying to keep it as clean as we possibly can, but we want people in these properties,” he said. “I’m excited when I hear that hopefully this is something that going is coming. We’re going to get people hopefully in these properties, we’re going to get these properties cleaned up and bringing about a vibrant neighborhood.”

Preston said he hopes an increase in residents in the neighborhood will attract more businesses to the area.

Twitter: @CWilliams_DN

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