Flint, MI– The Flint City Council voted to spend $16 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act funds on a program aimed at fighting blight–with the condition that the council can give input on which structures get demolished.
The city is receiving $94.7 million in ARPA funding as part of a $1.9 trillion economic stimulus package intended to aid the country in recovering from the pandemic.
To determine how to spend the funds, the administration and the council have held community forums to hear from residents about how they want the money to be spent. Dealing with blight has been a common answer.
Michael Freeman, director of the Genesee County Land Bank Authority, told the council during their committee meeting on April 6 that he wasn’t surprised by that.
“It’s really no surprise when you do your public listening sessions for ARPA, and you’re hearing people talk about this as one of their top priorities,” he said. “We hear this every day at the land bank.”
The GCLBA presented the $45 million plan to demolish more than 2,000 blighted structures to the council at that meeting.
According to the resolution document, the city’s $16 million would be combined with $8 million from Genesee County and $21.3 million from other sources, including the State of Michigan and the Mott Foundation.
Although the GCLBA takes in properties from the whole county, the vast majority of the demolitions funded through this proposal would be located in Flint. Freeman said the plan would fund a total of 2,410 demolitions, about 94% of which (about 2,265 properties) would be in Flint.
He said that the land bank would be selecting structures for demolition using various criteria as well as input from residents and the council, but some members wanted more than a verbal promise.
At the council’s regular meeting on April 11, Councilman Eric Mays proposed an amendment to the resolution to allow for council input on demolitions.
“It will allow council people to take you for your word, but we’re in a business arena. It will give us words to say hey, when it comes to demolitions in the first ward, Councilman Mays wants input,” Mays said.
Freeman said he would like to have regular meetings with council members throughout this program and in general.
“In the past the land bank would actually partner with each council member and hold a ward meeting where the land bank account could come and actually talk to residents,” he said. “So I think that this is even a great step for me in building relationships with council members and the people who live in your ward and their specific issues.”
He told the council to let him know if there were any structures that council members wanted to see demolished that were not on the list.
Many council members said approving the $16 million for this plan was an easy decision for them.
“So we’re putting in a $16 million investment, and we’re getting $45 million worth. I mean that that is a no-brainer,” said Councilwoman Ladel Lewis. “That is definitely what we need.”
Councilman Quincy Murphy said the residents of the third ward would appreciate getting some of the blighted structures taken down.
“Residents are just trying to figure out when the house is coming down next door to them or across the street,” Murphy said.
Councilwoman Eva Worthing said she thought that this program would reduce blight, but also crime.
“The less abandoned homes we have, the less we’re going to get calls and complaints about the activity in those homes,” she said. “So this is, for me, multifaceted, and I’m excited to pass it.”
The council voted 7-0 to approve the resolution. By the time the council voted to approve the resolution, it was more than ten hours into the meeting. Mays and Councilwoman Jerri Winfrey-Carter were not present for the vote.
Lewis, Murphy, Councilwoman Judy Priestley, Councilwoman Tonya Burns, Vice President Allie Herkenroder, Councilman Dennis Pfeiffer, and Worthing voted yes.