There was a really interesting story in The New York Times today about an idea floated by Dan Kildee, a county treasurer in Michigan who wants to shrink the footprint of Flint, a city in decline:

Here’s more from reporter David Streitfeld:

Instead of waiting for houses to become abandoned and then pulling them down, local leaders are talking about demolishing entire blocks and even whole neighborhoods.

The population would be condensed into a few viable areas. So would stores and services. A city built to manufacture cars would be returned in large measure to the forest primeval. …

Planned shrinkage became a workable concept in Michigan a few years ago, when the state changed its laws regarding properties foreclosed for delinquent taxes. Before, these buildings and land tended to become mired in legal limbo, contributing to blight. Now they quickly become the domain of county land banks, giving communities a powerful tool for change.

Kildee came to San Diego last year to talk with the local thinkers behind a San Diego version of the now-defunct land bank plan.

Obviously, San Diego doesn’t have the same shrinkage to deal with as an old-time manufacturing town in Michigan does. But the prevalence of foreclosed properties in some neighborhoods has some local leaders worried they’ll become blighted, left to become vacant magnets for vandalism and fall into disrepair before they can be repurchased by homeowners from the banks. Some had hoped to assemble taxpayer, private and philanthropic dollars to purchase foreclosed houses and operate a San Diego version of the land bank, but the plan is no longer on the table.

What do you think of Kildee’s idea for Flint? Do you have ideas for local leaders trying to reckon with the impact of foreclosures on their neighborhoods? Leave a comment in Survival or drop me a line:

One other thing: If you missed it and you’re interested to hear Will Carless and me chat about our recent investigation with Andrew Donohue and Scott Lewis on Sunday’s radio program on AM 600 KOGO, click here to listen. You can also listen to it on our site. If you’re not already there, click over to This Just In and use the player in the right-hand column.

Our topic is right off the bat.


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