Friday, July 17, 2009

Shrinking Flint: Federal Money to Get Smaller

We've been wondering where the federal money is to tear down abandoned houses in Flint. Well, it's on the way.

Cathy Shafran at WJRT ABC 12 reports:
"The city and the county both learned this week they'll each be getting about $1.2 million in federal stimulus money for demolition.

That $2.4 million will take care of about 300 of the 5,000 abandoned homes in the community.

That money, combined with another potential $15 million that the county has applied for, has the head of the land bank pushing harder than ever for the community to come up with a master plan on how to spend it.

"As the federal money comes in, we need to make sure we're making the best use of that money and not just throwing it at the wall and tearing down houses here and there or creating community gardens where it makes sense at the moment," said the Genesee County Land Bank's Dan Kildee.

Before you get too exited, let's work out the numbers. If it costs about $8,000 to tear down a house, and the city and county get $17.4 million, that works out to about 2,175 houses disappearing if all the money goes to demolition. So even in a best-case scenario — if that's the right term for this process — that still leaves 2,825 vacant houses in Flint. But that's better than 5,000, right?

The two candidates for mayor — Brenda Clack and Dayne Walling — differ on the issue of shrinking Flint, although both acknowledge city will be getting smaller.

Thanks to J.L. for passing this news along.


  1. I hate that it costs so much to tear down a house. If I was there in Flint-I do it myself! Or atleast rally up some demolition men to do it half cost- free for charity something.

    Born and raised in Flint, MI-Now living in the southwest.

  2. Würstside WarlørdJuly 18, 2009 at 11:39 AM

    This guy uses a heavy duty pickup and volunteers to literally pull down abandoned houses. $8000 is too much. John George and company do it for a fraction of the cost.

  3. To be fair, a lot of the cost of demolition is the environmental impact study. You have to figure out what's in these places before you pull 'em down. And disposal of the waste costs money as well. Just wanted to clarify that it's not just the labor to tear the house down.

  4. I've heard of Swiss Miss, so it's good to meet Mrs. Swiss Mocha. Thanks for the comment.

  5. Always good news coming out of Bedrock. I really dug the blight busters video, Warlord.

    I just wanted to say that we do not need environmental impact studies to tell us what these old run down buildings do to the morale of the people living in these neighborhoods, and since we are talking about abandoned homes for the most part knowing when they were built should tell you what types of building materials were used and if, for example, there is any asbestos in the insulation or lead in the paint.
    Just tear it down and start over. We can replant it with wild flowers. Nature has a way of healing itself. I'm sure there are a few pickup trucks in Clio that are up to the task of demolition.
    As for the waste, I wonder what they do with it as is?

  6. Po3Tree...
    If I was the person taking down these old houses, I would like a environmental study done because of probable asbestos and other contaminants....Would you want your lungs to be filled with this stuff? thought not...I know someone who died last year from abestos in their lungs. It is a horrid way to die...


  7. Anonymous...
    Sorry for your loss. What I was saying is that you don't need an environmental impact study to tell you what types of materials a house was built with. All you need to know is when and they have those records already.

    Of course no one wants mesothelioma or lead poisoning or any other nasty thing that could be lurking in those abandoned buildings. All I was trying to say is that tearing down unoccupied houses shouldn't cost so much money.

    What if they do a controlled burn on Devil's Night and blame it on roving gangs of unemployed shop workers. Just a thought.

  8. Reasons to use a licensed, insured demo contractor:

    1. Licensing is a legal requirement. Having contractors be licensed is a good thing, if you want them to follow the rules in what they do and how they do it.

    2. Insurance is common sense. If your contractor isn't insured, you're just taking the liability onto yourself. That's a dumb thing to do.

    3. Probably a majority of homes built prior to 1960 in Flint have vermiculite insulation in their attics. (Mine does.) Vermiculite currently is considered to be an asbestos-analogue.

    4. You want someone with the requisite heavy equipment. A long-reach power shovel allows knockdown without workers in the house as it comes down. A big dumpster or similar-sized truck properly handles the volume and weight of wood debris, which can weigh up to ten tons for a good-sized house.

    5. The proper approach is to dispose of the masonry in the basement, but not any of the wood materials that eventually would decay and settle, or catch fire; instead the basement is backfilled with dirt/gravel/etc. With amateurs doing the work, all that hauling would be a *lot* of pickup-truck loads, and might create a temptation to do a little vacant-lot dumping a block or two over...which would be slightly counterproductive.

    6. Believe it or not, there's considerable skill involved. You don't want to watch an amateur run heavy equipment. You really do want the basement filled right so it won't settle unevenly, or fill with water and become swampy, or have air pockets that will collapse and create unsafe conditions later. All the services have to be appropriately disconnected or plugged outside the foundation, not just turned off. You don't want broken glass, wood, nails and masonry scattered around on the surface. The goal after all is to reasonably approach greenfield conditions, not make it look like Armageddon was yesterday.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at