GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) - The Michigan State Housing Development Authority is doling out a $100 million federal grant -- your tax dollars -- to tear down foreclosed and abandoned homes throughout the state.
The Fresh Start program is going into effect in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac, Saginaw and in Grand Rapids. In Grand Rapids, the program will spend about $2.5 million to take out 100 homes -- about $25,000 per home.
It's being sold as a way to fight blight.
"We have determined that blight and foreclosures are closely correlated. You can imagine if you live next to a house that's burned out or you live ion a block and you're the only house that's not burned out, there's not a lot of incentive for you to continue paying your mortgage," said Scott Woosley, executive director of the MSHDA.
The house at 738 Franklin Street SE was the first to go.
The crack of plaster and wood as a large claw tore through what's left of the two-story home just west of Eastern Avenue SE was welcome noise for area resident Dave Holland.
"This building coming down in a great deal. It's a good deal," he said.
Holland lives next door to the blighted house.
"The dead animals in there stink. It's a hazard for the kids and for the community," he said.
But is tearing down housing stock the answer to fighting blight? Woosley says yes.
Woosley walked with 24 Hour News 8 to the front door of 738 Franklin. But that's as far as we could go. The home's too dangerous to enter.
"This one is burned out. It's probably full of lead paint. It's probably full of asbestos. And truthfully, the house is toxic. So it's got to come down," said Woosley, who added that most of the 100 homes on the list are in the same shape.
But what happens once the homes are torn down?
While the land will become vacant, don't expect urban prairies in which blocks of abandon home have been torn down. The problem isn't that severe in Grand Rapids.
Homes targeted are spread through neighborhoods throughout the city.
But that raises another question: How do you keep those lots from becoming blighted?
"We've got a couple of different programs. One is a side lot program. So once we tear down the house, the neighbor next door can buy it for $500," Woosley said.
The program will also plant low-grow grasses to control the weeds and discourage dumping.
Fresh Start is a pilot program. If it's successful, state officials hope the feds will send more checks to tear down more homes.
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