DETROIT (WWJ/AP) - The Motor City is taking drastic measures to clean up nearly 80,000 vacant properties in its 139-square miles.
Mayor Mike Duggan announced Wednesday that the city will begin posting legal notices on empty houses and take court action if needed against owners of blighted properties.
"We're going to sue the owner of every single abandoned house," Duggan said. "The precedent has been established. When you leave your house abandoned, it is a nuisance to the neighborhood and you cannot legally leave your property in a way that's a nuisance."
The effort, which is part of Duggan's revitalization program for the bankrupt city, will start in the Marygrove neighborhood on the northwest side.
"It's no longer acceptable to leave behind a vacant property in the city of Detroit," Duggan said. "Either you can fix it up, or the city will seize the property and get it into the hands of someone who will."
The program is modeled after one Duggan created and ran as prosecutor from 2001-2003, under which 1,000 abandoned homes were fixed up and occupied, and is being run by the Detroit Land Bank set up by the mayor and City Council in January.
Homeowners -- whether individuals or banks -- have until Monday, April 14th to contact the Detroit Land Bank and address their property or face a lawsuit and possible seizure of the house. Under the nuisance abatement lawsuits, owners can sign a consent agreement to renovate and occupy the home in 6 months or risk losing the house.
Homes that are taken over will go to the land bank, which will auction off salvageable buildings on its website.
"This is a new day for Detroit and Detroiters," said City Council President Brenda Jones. "Finally, we have a real strategy to restore our neighborhoods and the leadership and cooperation to deliver real results."
To smooth the way for buyers, Talmer Bank said it was committing $1 million to a program in which homeowners get $25,000 forgivable loans when they buy homes in the neighborhood at auction. The loans will be forgiven at the rate of $5,000 per year that the buyer continues to live in the home.
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