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Solar fields coming to three Detroit neighborhoods

Finalists selected for solar farms in Detroit
Finalists selected for solar farms in Detroit 02:39

(CBS DETROIT) – The city of Detroit is inching closer to turning vacant and blighted land into solar fields.

On Monday, Mayor Mike Duggan announced that three neighborhoods, Gratiot/Findlay, Van Dyke/Lynch, and State Fair, will see the first-round installation of solar arrays that will generate half of the clean energy needed to power the city's 127 municipal buildings.

"You've had cities like Chicago and Cincinnati that have built solar fields hundreds of miles away. We wanted to build it in the city and upgrade the neighborhoods, and that's what we've done," Duggan told reporters. 

A total of 21 homeowners in all three neighborhoods are getting bought out so their homes can be torn down. The homeowners will be paid double their fair market value and no less than $90,000 for their homes.   

Andres Gutierrez/CBS Detroit

"Well, I hesitated at first because it's kind of hard–the market is kind of high right now for housing. But I think it's okay because the value of my house is not as much as what they offered. They offered me more than the value of my house," said, Pau Chang, one of those homeowners who accepted the city's offer.

Patricia Kobylski, who has lived in the Gratiot/Findlay neighborhood for 53 years and also took a voluntary buy-out, told CBS News Detroit that getting buy-in to the idea was easy. 

"What were they going to do with all that vacant land? We have to do something with it," Kobylski said.

The first phase of the solar neighborhood project costs $14 million, much of which will be covered by the city's utility conversation fund.

Renters impacted by the project will receive the cost of relocating and 18 months of free rent when they move.

People living next to the solar fields will be eligible to receive between $15,000 to $25,000 to do repairs to make their homes energy efficient.

"So it helps our residents fix their homes up, which is key, but also lower their energy bills close to 10 to 20%, which will help them pay for things like gas helped them pay for things like food, or other necessities for their families," said Councilmember Fred Durhal lII, who represents Detroit's District 7.

The city council will review the proposal to acquire the land and offer the payouts in the coming weeks. The mayor's office hopes to break ground by the end of the year.

"These are neighbors that hung in there for years and watched the blight spreading. They thought the blight was going to spread to their block. Instead, the beauty is going to spread to their block, and that's very exciting," Duggan said. 

This announcement comes as Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is expected to sign a new bill into law that stops homeowners' associations from banning residents from installing energy-saving equipment like solar panels and EV chargers.

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