For Immediate Release
Contact: Eric Lupher
Organization: Citizens Research Council of Michigan
Date: January 29, 2023
Livonia, MI – Blight adversely affects the physical health, public safety, and economic conditions of many Michigan communities. For decades, local governments have been working with state policymakers to craft policies to prevent and remediate blight, this has resulted in a hodge-podge of approaches with little coherence across programs and balkanized funding sources. A new report by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, Coordinating the Authority and Resources to Remediate Blight, argues that Michigan’s disjointed approach to combatting blight has been the biggest obstacle to effectively tackling this issue.
In a Nutshell
- The term blight is used to describe properties that are marked by a demonstrated pattern of deterioration in physical, economic, or social conditions. Blight can exist in urban, suburban, and rural communities, but each community’s response to the problem will be different.
- Blight prevention and remediation generally is a public good that benefits the entire community and, especially, neighboring residences and businesses. Local governments are tasked with managing blight within their boundaries; their efforts are supported by state laws and programs, as well as federal funds and programs.
- Possible solutions to more effective blight prevention and management include taking a more regional approach to anti-blight policies; greater collaboration among counties, local governments, and the private sector; increasing community buy-in and support; and, where appropriate, providing local governments with more diverse funding streams to provide the resources needed.
The legal authority for local governments in Michigan to combat blight is in place. However, the governments with the power to effectuate change and those with the wherewithal to carry out those actions are not the same. Because of this disconnect, the analysis found that Michigan has the infrastructure to handle blight but generally lacks a consistent stream of funding necessary for that infrastructure to function and for successful blight remediation and prevention.
It will require taking a more regional approach to anti-blight policies; greater collaboration among counties, local governments, and the private sector; and community buy-in and support for Michigan to craft a sustainable approach to blight remediation.
Even if structural changes are made to blight remediation responsibilities, funding may still be an issue. County land banks are running on empty. The municipalities where blight is prevalent suffer from declining tax bases and are often forced to make the choice between blight remediation and funding services for residents. Detroit has sold bonds to help fund demolition and blight remediation, but that practice only passes the cost on to future taxpayers. State and federal funds have filled the gaps to help fund blight remediation, but that funding is not ongoing either.
Unfortunately, Michigan local governments are beholden to the property tax as their primary source of revenue. Property taxes, especially in urban areas, contribute to the cost of maintaining a property and the blight problem. Rather than trying to adapt existing revenue sources to meet local governments’ blight remediation needs, state policymakers could address the underlying problems confronting the revenue-raising capabilities of local governments in Michigan.
“It is possible that a new funding source will be needed for Michigan local governments to better control blight,” said Eric Lupher, President of the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. “But a necessary first step is for Michigan to align responsibilities with the ability to fund the service.”
“County officials and surrounding communities may be inclined to resist this responsibility, but everyone will enjoy more prosperity if blight can be addressed in communities i where it is prevalent. Just as blighted properties affect neighboring properties, it is also the case that blight in one community affects communities in adjacent municipalities.”
Paper copies are available upon request.