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April 29, 2010

Detroit Deals With Depopulation By Demolishing Derelict Domiciles

Mentioned a while back -- Detroit is depopulating, with one-third of its residential homes simply abandoned. Their big idea is to demolish dying neighborhoods and turn them into farmlands, and condense the city into living (and more easily policed) neighborhoods.

The problem is that even in blighted areas some homes are occupied, and the owners don't want to move.

Frankly, I suspect for most this is a bargaining position -- hold-outs tend to get paid more. I don't imagine many people are actually super-psyched to live in a ghost-town of abandoned, decaying, burned-out homes.

I think one way the city can deal with this is to not be so insistent that every home in these dying neighborhoods be demolished. If they want to stay, let 'em stay -- you can build farmlands around them. Maybe they like the idea of being surrounded by farms. And who does that hurt, really? The only problem is police power, having to run cars out to far-flung houses, but that's a pretty small cost in the scheme of things. And it's not as if we're talking great distances.

But I Detroit only has $40 million for this project. The math seems difficult to me -- how does a dying city without much money adequately compensate people for all the seized homes? I've got a sneaking suspicion they don't have nearly enough and will be mulcting the feds for money every year.

More at Hot Air. It's an interesting question, as it pits the power of the state against individuals who refuse to go along with the plan. And it implicates zoning, which is one of the hottest-button issues around.

I don't know, though. At some point the defense-of-the-individual position crosses over into actual anarchism if taken too far. People tend to be property-rights absolutists right about until the time their neighbor, also believing in absolute property rights, wants to erect a fat-rendering plant, a slaughterhouse, or a porno emporium.

As I said, I think the hold-outs just mostly want better terms. If you can buy them off, fine. If not, avoid using the state power to snatch their land -- just demolish all the homes you do can buy out and turn just that land into farm. Again, I really don't see the big problem with having farmland studded with the occasional house (and connecting road). If people want to live the boonies, that's their right. The boonies have a lot to recommend.

But taking that option also gets people to stop holding out, because, in the end, most of these folks don't want to live in desolation. Again, they're mostly just holding out, so if you just tell them you'll build a road to their house and otherwise convert the neighborhood to farmland, they'll come to terms.

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posted by Ace at 04:25 PM

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