On Wednesday, May 17th, City Council held a Law and Education Committee Meeting to discuss the subject matter of demolition of blighted residential and commercial properties. Committee meetings are not recorded and the VRS team attended in person to learn more about this topic.
This matter was brought to committee in response to a 2021 ordinance passed by the City of Westland that has resulted in the demolition of 2 blighted commercial buildings this year.
Director of Inspection, Jerome Hanna, attended this meeting and shared information about the state of Livonia’s Inspection Department. Here are some items of note:
- Livonia already has ordinances that cover blight, vacancy, and property maintenance. It has the authority to demo buildings; however it is a multi-layered process to navigate and costs money.
- The Inspection Department spends about $10k each year clearing debris and boarding up vacant spaces. With its current budget it could afford to demo 1 residential house each year. Currently, the City has not been paying to demo homes because the owners have paid to do so. When a house goes into tax foreclosure in Livonia, the City has the opportunity to purchase it. In these cases, the city can demolish or repair. A partnership with Livonia Public Schools Career Technical Center is one way these blighted homes are later rehabilitated.
- The cost to demo commercial properties would cost up to and even above $100,000. This cost would be assessed to taxes; however, there is no guarantee that the City would receive that money. The foreclosure process with Wayne County is complex for municipal governments and loopholes are used by property owners to prevent losing property.
- The Inspection Department also has staff limitations with 5 ordinance officers and a supervisor.
This matter will be kept in committee. It was requested that the Law and Inspection Departments work together to evaluate current ordinances and determine if there are needs/opportunities to strengthen what is on the books.
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