Hamtramck, Highland Park conduct surveys amid effort to deal with blighted properties



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DETROIT — Two cities surrounded by Detroit are undertaking comprehensive attempts to count blighted properties within their boundaries as efforts ramp up in cities around the state to deal with vacant and dilapidated buildings.

Results of the surveys in Hamtramck and Highland Park are expected next week, The Detroit News reported (http://bit.ly/1yJcrjJ ). Both communities have lost tens of thousands of residents and, like large portions of Detroit, are pocked with burned-out homes and abandoned buildings.

"Go down any street and you will get a sense of what we are dealing with," said Louis Starks, Highland Park's community and economic development director. There are an estimated 3,000 empty buildings in the city, which amounts to about half of its structures.

Funding from the Kresge and Skillman foundations is helping to pay for the counts. The cities are using a simple mobile app known as "blexting" — short for blight texting — to collect information and photos. The app has been used in Detroit to catalog blighted properties.

Last week, the Wayne County communities teamed up with the Motor City Mapping project that had 20 workers go out with camera phones and tablets and survey every parcel in each city. The survey included about 6,700 properties in Hamtramck and about 6,600 in Highland Park.

Detroit-based Rock Ventures and the nonprofit Data Driven Detroit also are helping to support the effort.

"This is what Hamtramck blight is like," said Kathy Angerer, Hamtramck's director of community and economic development, as she stood in front of a shell of a house. "It's not rows of empty houses, but one on a street full of houses still occupied. Imagine if this was green space."

Highland Park and Hamtramck are among 12 Michigan cities seeing a total of $75 million in federal funding to deal with blight. The blight-fight plans, created by the Michigan State Housing Development Authority, also will help fund work in Detroit, Ecorse, Inkster and River Rouge in Wayne County as well as Adrian, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron.

"Getting an accurate count is so important because now we will have a good handle of what we are dealing with," Angerer said. "That will only strengthen our chances to get the federal funding and really help us direct our limited funding and energy to promote all our wonderful assets."


Information from: The Detroit News, http://detnews.com/

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