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City Levels Hud Rat Traps, Forces Feds' Hand

City Levels Hud Rat Traps, Forces Feds' Hand image
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Whether the city or the federal government does it, it appears that the wrecking hall will soon descend on many of the abandoned homes tliat have scarred the úcc of Detroit smce the HUD scandals of the sixties. Mayor Coló man Young and City Council President Cari Levin moved boldly to forcé action on the city's longstanding impasse with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on October 1 7. when citycontracted v. rockers pulled down two of the 150 HUD-owned ratiraps ordered demolished by Council a year before. Local HUD director Elmer C. Binford, who has continually ignored the need for action on the dangei ons structures the worst of about 2000 the city would like to level immediately threatened criminal action against the city, its officials, and the contractors. but Young and Levin replied only that they would give HUD five days to get off their duffs before resuming demolitions. The abandoned HUD houses are the residuo of the federal housing program's embarrassing failure in Detroit, where a fulj one-fil'th of HUD's national propertiesare located. Many were left empty, havens for filth, junkies, and vandals. after local real estáte speculatorsand corrupt HUD officials offered them to families who had no hope of making the payments. VVhen the families delaulted as expected, the speculators received f uil payment for the property f rom HUD's insurance programs, often leaving whole blocks of the city to rot. The besieged HUD program's most recent excuse for not moving on the houses was their suspension of 39 wreeking contraetors-almost the entire Detroit industry-for allegedly . burying rubble, rather than hauling it away properly. Young and Levin complained that the contractors were effectively convicted without a trial, and that HUD was taking badly tieeded jobs away trom Detroitors. They then hired suspended lirnïs to do the wrecking on October 17. The city's unilateral action may have potten HUI) off dead center on the issue. in sunseiiuem negotiations, according to a spokesperson for the Mayor's office, HUI) has promised (tor the lïist time) to demolish most ot' the 1 50 worst houses ai federal expense. A hearing exarniiu-i from HUI) is expected to be in tewn tlns week to see about licensing some of the suspended local fimns to d tik' wrecking; in return, the cit will see about licensing HUD's ont-ol-town con tractors. In the meantirhe, the city has held off further demoli tions, hoping to avoid ha ving to pay lor the rest of the work. week alter the city's action, MUD Secretary ('aria Hills quietly slipped in and out of Detroit without meeting with city officials. Hills reportedly met with local HUI) officials and took a tour of Detroit 's neigborhoods. the more prosperous ones as well as the federal ghettoes. Meanwhile. the citj is hoping that HUI) will begin to show good faith in its promises to begin tea ring down the 1 50 homes as soon as the licensing question is cleared up. "We have a much larger agentia with HUD tlian this," said the Mayor's spokesperson. "We have hundreds of millions of dollars in building projects belore the federal government in the Moving Detroit Forward plan." lor this reason, the city hopes to avoid all-out war with HUD over the abandoned houses, hut confirmed to the SUN that il the Department fails to carry througli, it will resume demolitions on its own and bill the federal government for the cost. "We've been taking it on the chin for years from HUD," said Levin, "but now we're fighting back. WeVe fighting for the lives of these neighborhoods."