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Fixing Detroit

I just wanted to point out that fixing Detroit is easy. The problem is the city is half empty. The solution is to bring the population in line with the size of the city. Normally, cities do one of two things to try and fix this. Appeal to young people who will spend a lot of money at the bars. This ignores the fact that any who have kids will move out for the same reasons they moved into the city. The other is to try and push the residents out and make the city only a commercial center. This reduces the need for people to live there. This ends up giving business an incentive to move to the suburbs. After all, that's where the people are. The real solution is to bring the size of the city in line with the current population.

There are two ways you can do that. One is to limit the size/height of buildings. This has worked in several cities but I think it is too late for Detroit to do that. The only real way to reduce of the size of the city to something the population to support is to consolidate the people in a smaller area. There was talk of doing this in New Orleans. The plan was to take low level areas that had been mostly emptied of residents and convert them to land preserves of various types. This would concentrate the population into a smaller and more affordable area.

Detroit probably won't have a natural disaster to make this easy. However, it does have a man-made one. The housing bubble has made land and housing in Detroit practically worthless. You do not a sell a house in many places, you just abandon it. The city/state could pick a large square block of the city and start acquiring all of the land. The cheap part is getting the land. Seizing property for unpaid taxes, buying near worthless lots, and programs to help move people to other areas of the city would work to empty it. The expensive part would be removing the housing stock, pulling up the roads, and cleaning up pollution. However, long term the land would be valuable. In the short and medium term you benefit from a smaller area to support and fewer empty lots.

If half the houses on your block are empty or full of squatters than its going to be hard to motivate you to improve your home. However, if you can concentrate the people in a smaller area you give neighborhoods a chance to form and improve the area. Police have a smaller area to patrol and can provide better service. Road crews have less road to maintain. Fire departments have less empty buildings to worry about and can focus on helping homeowners who area closer to the department.

The large cleaned up blocks of the city can than be redeveloped in the future when the city needs it. Hopefully, it would be used to give people housing they want versus the current Detroit house which is all to often small and only tolerated.


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