With its population dropping below 1 million, Detroit is becoming less and less centralized. To help reverse this trend and create a cohesive municipality, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing introduced a plan last week that would encourage police officers and other city employees to move within city limits. In order to build better police community relations and to improve the connection between public servants and the city where they work, Bing’s plans should proceed unhindered. If this program proves to be as successful as Bing hopes, officials should use the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund to invest in other housing projects that would encourage more people to migrate to Detroit.

According to Detroit officials, more than 50 percent of Detroit police officers live outside the city’s limits. Detroit is in possession of an abundance of foreclosed and repossessed real estate. The experimental program Bing is introducing is an effort to simultaneously address these two facets. In an attempt to bring police officers back into the city, the proposal will provide funds to renovate these derelict homes which will then be sold to police officers for as little as $1,000. The funds for this project are a part of the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund from the federal government, and no part of the program will be funded by tax dollars, according to a Feb. 7 freep.com article.

While it’s important to help families already living in Detroit, putting money into dilapidated, rundown homes isn’t cost effective. Bing’s plan will help improve the real estate in the city twofold — it will improve the houses and housing market through restoration and renovation, and it will fill empty houses that are contributing no money in property taxes. Filling empty houses with police officers will decrease crime in Detroit neighborhoods.

Until 1999, the state law stated that all city employees had to be residents of Detroit. But a law that mandates Detroit residency for public service will deter people from working for the city. Rather than reinstating a law similar to the one that ended in 1999 and risking losing city employees, Bing’s plan will create positive incentives to get its employees back in the city. This will help build community relations between the city’s government and the city’s residents, which will provide a more unified municipality.

The pilot program is only the first step in the many necessary for Detroit’s recovery. Even though police officers are going to help fill vacant houses and maintain a presence within the city, there is still going to be a significant lack of tenancies. In order to help improve infrastructure and stave off foreclosure, Detroit should consider formulating a land bank similar to the Genesse County Land Bank, which would also qualify for funding from the Neighborhood Stabilization Fund. A land bank could help intervene on behalf of families facing economic hardships, and underwrite abandoned properties in order to distribute them to responsible developers and owners.

Detroit needs new innovations and ideas to reinvigorate the city. There are many avenues that Bing can take to improve Detroit, and following the success of this program, new infrastructure and a land bank would be the logical next step.

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