Tag: Urban Blight

Does Detroit Need a Homestead Act?


shutterstock_115828237An interesting suggestion from University of Georgia economist Jeffrey Dorfman, writing at RealClearMarkets:

A recent report by the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force calculated there were likely 72,000 blighted structures and over 6,000 vacant lots within the city of Detroit. Their latest estimate of the cost of addressing this problem is $850 million for the residential structures and between $500 million and $1 billion for the industrial sites. That is a lot of money for Detroit, and if they can come up with the money it would take a long time to complete the task. A better solution would be a city homestead act.

Much of the United States was settled under various versions of homestead acts. Depending on the location and time period, a settler could obtain 160, 320, or 640 acres for free subject to the requirement to live on and improve the land. From 1862 until homesteading was finally ended in 1976 1.6 million Americans gained ownership of 270 million acres, equal to about 10 percent of the entire nation’s land mass. While the U.S. gave away vacant, pristine land, Detroit can do a modern variant and give away blighted properties.