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See if you can guess why this bothers me. From today’s Detroit News:

At first, the Home Team Detroit development group considered buying every property in the city headed for this year’s annual county tax foreclosure auction.

Instead, the real estate group is settling for a swath of the northwest side that covers 25 square miles and 24 neighborhoods. That’s an area larger than Manhattan.

“The game plan is pretty simple,” said David Prentice, founder, chairman and CEO of Home Team. “You are going to have a quadrant of (Detroit) with properties that are primarily occupied.”

Prentice and his Home Team colleagues contend they have a plan to solve one of Detroit’s biggest problems: stopping the hemorrhaging of home foreclosures from unpaid property taxes. The group wants the right to buy thousands of northwest properties before they end up in the tax auction, which it will then work to fix up while offering paths for tenants to become homeowners.

 

So if you haven’t figured it out already, here’s why this bothers me; it’s a modified version of the Dan Gilbert approach to community development. And let’s just say I have some concerns about the Gilbertization of Detroit.

Look, these guys might be great and wonderful with only the best interests of Detroit fluttering in their hearts. If so? Great. But whenever somebody says they want to buy up half the city and that they have a ‘plan’ …? Yeah, well. Maybe I’ve been living here too long, but that kinda thing just makes me nervous.

It’s already hard enough for ordinary Detroiters/Wayne County residents to bid on tax foreclosed properties that are worth anything because they’re often bidding against extremely well-financed bidders in other states and even other countries. Now comes this company with a ‘plan’ that wants to devour a hefty number of tax foreclosed properties before they even reach the auction block. On the surface, this certainly makes things easier, at least in some ways. Because once all the paperwork clears, there’s no need to be bothered with all those pesky individual bidders. Right away it looks like Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree can wipe all those properties off the books and collect the much-needed revenue from the sale. And admittedly that’s a hard one to walk away from if everything checks out.

But giving one individual – or one company – sole control over that much of the city’s property, is the sort of deal that should give all of us pause.

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