Demolition quandary: Genesee Towers or 6,000 vacant homes?

Money going toward the demolition of Genesee Towers could have gone to clean up blight and demolish vacant homes.

A new report out from the New Orleans Community Data Center, using data from the US Postal Service and HUD, suggests the number of unoccupied properties in Flint and Detroit combined exceeds the number that existed in New Orleans in the immediate years following Hurricane Katrina. With around 14,500 properties classified as unoccupied in the report, Flint's percentage of 27% of the city's properties being unoccupied exceeds Detroit percentage of 24%. New Orleans 2008 percentage is smaller, but the overall combined number in the Vehicle and Motor Cities is larger.

Now NBC25 has learned that with federal neighborhood stabilization programs drying up the City of Flint has dedicated $750,000 from a grant fund that is often used for blight removal programs and demolitions. The Community Development Block Grant fund is local and the Neighborhood Stabilization Program is federal. Both look to not be available in any great quantity to neighborhood groups or the Genesee County Land Bank anytime soon. A statement from Flint Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz says:

"In the past few years we have been focusing on doing demolition using NSP and CDBG money. Sometimes and opportunity comes along that allows us to use that money in a way that creates an economic development opportunity. We believe this is just such a case that will enhance economic activity and could lead to job creation, increased tax revenue to the City and be a benefit to the community. To implode the building and remove the asbestos within it will cost upwards of $4 million."

Last year the city demolished around 800 homes. This year's number of demolitions will likely be less than 200.