Detroit demolition program expropriated federal funding designed to assist residents. | Photo: WXYZ
By Abayomi Azikiwe
On August 14, the final abandoned home was demolished with the more than $265 million in Hardest Hit Homeowners Funds initially designed to preserve neighborhoods as opposed to their destruction in the majority African American city of Detroit.
Over 15,000 houses have been destroyed since 2014 yet tens of thousands more dilapidated and abandoned homes, apartments, commercial and industrial structures remain in the city.
These government funds were deliberately redirected from their intended purpose to later serve as a profitable enterprise for private companies engaging in work which environmentally has endangered hundreds of thousands of people. A corporate-imposed administration in Detroit headed by Mayor Mike Duggan has defined its mission as the exploitation of labor, resources and tax dollars for the wealthiest interests in the city and beyond. This regime was installed during an unprecedented declaration of emergency management and bankruptcy during 2013-2014.
The 2008-2009 corporate and financial institutional bailout only provided a small percentage of the overall assistance to homeowners so deeply impacted by the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Toxic mortgages and urban bond initiatives played a pivotal role in the bankruptcies and near financial ruin of many of the major cities across the United States.
Detroit and other municipalities were already suffering from the vast transferral of wealth from the working class and oppressed peoples to the capitalist ruling class which expanded exponentially after the restructuring of the world system after 1975. Industrial centers such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois, among others, were turned into economic wastelands where unemployment remained astronomically high while workers fled the areas seeking work and other forms of social assistance.
In Detroit, a popular struggle emerged during the later months of 2019 over the introduction of yet another questionable municipal bond deal for $250 million, which would cost the people of the city a half-billion dollars including interest. The existing demolition program which has exhausted its funds was characterized by graft, patronage and the widespread poisoning of the affected communities through the dangerous levels of lead, asbestos and other harmful materials left after the demolition of the homes and apartment buildings.
An Auditor General’s report commissioned by the Detroit City Council took several years to complete due to the lack of transparency by the Duggan administration. The overcharges, missing documents and arbitrary actions taken against salvageable homes which were not even on the demolition lists, has tarnished the image of the program in the eyes of the public.
Consequently, due to public pressure, the bond deal went down in flames at the City Council table during November. In a 6-3 vote, the Council, although not known in recent years to take positions which support the interests of the majority Detroit population, felt the mass discontent and rejected the financial scheme.
Nonetheless, amid the economic distress of the people of Detroit, the City Council has passed by a 5-4 margin another revised bond initiative introduced by the administration. The plan on paper says that 8,000 homes will be “rehabilitated” while an equal number are slated for destruction….
The upcoming November elections will generate much interest and debate over the future of the U.S. However, until the workers and oppressed organize independently of the interests of Wall Street there will not be any hope for economic revival among the majority of people inside the country.