Audit finds Detroit's demolition program mismanaged, land bank fires back

Mayor Mike Duggan says the city's demolition program is finally on the right track, but a new audit tells a different story, including unfinished work, mismanagement and rising costs.

Now the Detroit Land Bank is responding.

Some Detroit residents complain some homes have been demolished but were left with a raggedy fence, no dirt and they leave a hole.

The auditor general of the City Of Detroit, Mark Lockridge, issued an 11-page report, analyzing a three year study, saying essentially that the city's demolition program is poorly run and puts residents of Detroit at risk.

On March 17, Lockridge visited 19 properties and found open holes, debris, flimsy fences, which present "a clear and present danger to the community." 

David Johnson, the Tuxedo Street block club president on the west side, agrees.

"You could put a body down here, throw some stuff over here and cover it up. It's a mess. ...This is a big waste," he said.

The auditor general is appointed by the city Council, and is independent from mayor's office. 

But the mayor's office coordinates the demolition of homes through the Detroit Building Authority and the land bank. 

"Not acceptable. We absolutely have to take care of it but 19 out of 11,000 were too slow," said Detroit Land Bank Authority Chair Erica Ward Gerson of the Detroit Land Bank.

The report said "at least" 19 properties, but the land bank says the report is full of errors, and points out the contractor was actually demolishing the homes without a valid contract and legally had to be stopped.

Langton: "Isn't it better though to have the contract finish the job and then argue it in court?"

Ward Gerson: "No because the federal government will not pay you without a contract. A contract before the work has began, and we are complying with everything that the federal government requires."

The auditor's report also says that there were escalating administrative costs, weak internal financial controls, and inadequate program management and oversight.

"Escalating administrative costs are absolutely true because we cut this deal with the federal government to make sure that the money would continue to flow and we committed to them to staff up in any way that was necessary to do so," Ward Gerson said.