By Charles Sercombe
When it comes to blight, Hamtramck has no shortage.
And now, thanks to a yearly federal grant, the city will have some extra change to fight overgrown lots, trash and abandoned and burned houses.
City Council decided to rework the proposed Community Development Block Grant to budget $50,000 toward blight and code enforcement. The grant will allow the city to hire two part-time code inspectors.
The total grant is $349,000, some of which goes toward paying back past loans for development.
Just where and how the city will spend money on blight has not been drawn up yet. Community & Economic Development Director Jason Friedmann said he will have a plan ready by the end of October.
The original budget proposal had far less allocated for blight and instead focused more on business start-ups and expansion.
There is still money set aside for businesses, plus money for housing rehabilitation and façade improvement.
It is estimated that there are 400 empty houses in town, due mostly to foreclosures. While city officials go after banks that still own the houses to maintain their properties, that has produced little effect. Instead, the task of cleaning lots and boarding up houses has been left largely to the city.
With Hamtramck facing a $3.3 million budget deficit, the city had to cut back on maintaining lots and houses. Now with this new budget, the city can get back into the game.
There’s no shortage of things to do. More and more, you can see abandoned houses, some boarded up, and some broken into, dotting Hamtramck’s neighborhoods – especially on the southend which has long been the main eyesore.
During the housing market bubble, Hamtramck house values skyrocketed, and it was rare to see a boarded up, unoccupied house.
Ironically, when the housing market went bust, a longstanding housing discrimination lawsuit filed against the city resulted – finally – in the building of new houses. Many of those new houses were built in the southend.
To say the least, it’s a jarring sight to see brand new houses sit side-by-side with overgrown, weedy lots and ramshackle empty houses. It’s hoped this new budget will begin to tackle this problem and keep the good houses from going bad.