Fighting Detroit blight with gingerbread houses

It's a unique way to bring attention to blight in Detroit and the holiday season is a perfect time to do it.

One Detroit neighborhood is auctioning off blighted gingerbread houses for a good cause.

One of the leading strategies for fighting blight in Detroit is auctioning off houses. On the east side, you can get some of those houses for under $45 - just don't try and move in.

People of earth, have no fear this is not the world's biggest scrapper it's a just a Detroiter with a dremel.

Despite an up-tick in home values and a flurry of demolitions, things are so rough in some Detroit neighborhoods even the gingerbread houses are falling down. And it isn't just the mortgage that is upside down for the owner of this cozy, high-calorie cottage.

That won't stop the residents of Cornerstone Village on Detroit's far east side from using gingerbread to raise some dough. 

It all started three years ago when Suzanne Scoville had a brainstorm.

"It was just one of those things where I blurted out 'Wouldn't it be funny if we had a gingerbread party and we did all blighted gingerbread houses,'" Scoville said. "We can auction them off like a Wayne County auction and then raise the money for a board up fund for the neighborhood."

And so, for the third year in a row, Scoville will host an auction for gingerbread houses inspired by real Detroit homes. 

CLICK HERE for a slideshow of the blighted gingerbread houses.

"If we're poking fun at anything, we're poking fun at our own circumstances," she said.

One gingerbread house has a warning for scrappers, another  is a replica of a home in West Village.

These homes may taste bad, but their makers hope they're not in bad taste. Some even tell real Detroit stories.

One is a re-creation of an incident when a car hit a home, setting it on fire. Another shows the great flood, complete with sharks. One crumb-y creation captures the spirit of the unfinished Wayne County jail.

"There's pretty much no nutritional value in these houses. and some of it might actually be toxic," Scoville said. "Much like the actual blight."

James Grenwick is the president of the Cornerstone Village Association, he's also an admitted bid rigger.

 Grenwick will first off start by bidding all houses at $10.

That can get pricey, but like many of his neighbors, he says he's willing to live dangerously.

"I looked to my wife and said it's possible I could win all of the houses here," he said. "So we're ready."

Scoville says last year's auction raised about $400. 

"I think they said we raised enough last year to board up 12 houses," she said.

Scoville grew up in Grosse Pointe, just across Mack from Cornerstone Village. She has chased off scrappers and says that after a decade in the dumps, she's not about to give up.

"What people don't realize is that you're not always a victim to circumstances, you can help shape your circumstances," she said. "Just as quickly as it can fall apart, it can come together. If somebody's just willing to take a chance and get the ball rolling."

The auction hasn't raised enough money yet to buy a house, but they've raised more than enough to save plenty of them on Detroit's east side.

The third annual I'm Dreaming of a (No) Blight Christmas Party is Saturday from 7 p.m. to midnight at the Quack House, 4127 Neff, Detroit and is open to the public.

For more info, click HERE.

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