Detroit asks: ‘Won’t you be my neighbor?’

The city of Detroit is offering energy-efficient gut renovations, forgivable loans and other incentives to homeowners willing to move into abandoned homes in down-and-out neighborhoods.

by Matt Hickman
An abandoned house in Detroit.
Photo: Jessicareeder/Flickr
Did the 10,000-square-foot cursed crack house — or crack mansion, rather — on sale in Los Angeles for $15.2 million and featured earlier this week not do it for you adventurous home renovators? It’s understandable. All of the zero-VOC paint, energy-efficient windows and rooftop photovoltaics in the world couldn’t rid that place of the bad mojo surrounding it. Well, maybe it could — but I certainly wouldn’t want to move in.

A world away in Detroit, there are plenty of abandoned fixer-uppers ripe for the taking. And if you’re lucky, these homes haven’t been the scene of satanic rituals, gang initiations or drug-fueled squatting. One thing is for sure: the abandoned, in need-of-TLC homes of Detroit don’t cost $15.2 million. In fact, the city of Detroit will pay you to move in.

According to the Business Insider, Mayor David Bing is offering incentives to folks who are willing to move and give the city’s plentiful abandoned housing stock some love. One program detailed by the Detroit Free Press is focused on getting at least 200 Detroit police officers who are living in the suburbs back into city by offering homes for as little as $1,000.
Bing plans to spend $150,000 in energy-efficient renovations on each of the 200 abandoned homes that are primarily in the historic East English Village and Boston-Edison neighborhoods. Officers willing to move into the homes will also be offered up to a $25,000 down payment and forgivable loans. The funding for all of this is coming from $30 million in federal stimulus money.
The Business Insider notes that another program, this one for college graduates, is offering up to $2,500 for renters and $20,000 in forgivable loans for those interested in buying an abandoned house in Motor City.
Although the city seems to be covering the renovation costs in these cases, This Old House named The Villages, a network of six historic neighborhoods near downtown Detroit, the best area in the country for DIYers to find an affordable fixer-upper. Other cities on This Old House’s “Best Old House Neighborhoods” list from 2010 include Junius Heights in Dallas, North Mayfair in Chicago, West Adams in L.A., Stuyvesant Heights in Brooklyn, and the Old Town Historic District in Brunswick, Ga.

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