Sunday, January 06, 2013

Motown, the city of tomorrow

Detroit's 800,000 population is now almost half it was at its peak. The city lost 25% of its population in the past decade.

There are 90,000 abandoned buildings in Detroit, boarded up or left to rot. The gap sites in Detroit make up 40 square miles. You could fit two Manhattans into the gaps. Property is cheap. Family houses can be bought for $100. A recent poll by the Detroit News  showed that more than 40% of residents plan to leave in the next five years, if they can. 

 Detroit is basically lawless. Police will not enter some districts. Criminal homicides was up from 344 in 2011 - an increase of 12 percent percent. One homicide per 1,719 people, compared with 1 in 5,336 people in Chicago.

Industry built Detroit. Henry Ford began mass-producing his Model T at a plant here in 1913, and by the 1950s, General Motors was the single biggest employer in the world. Detroit was portrayed as “the city of tomorrow”. In the 1950s the city was the richest, on a per capita basis, in the nation. Nowadays median income for Detroit residents that is less than half the national median ($25,193 vs. $50,502). Detroit families are living in poverty at a rate more than three times higher than the national average (35.5% vs. 11.7%), and children in Detroit are living in poverty at rates more than twice the national average (57.3% vs 22.5%). The unemployment rate for Detroit, at 11.3%, surpasses the unemployment rate for rest of the state. The city's black unemployment rate, at 25.7%, surpasses the overall rates for the city and the state.

To save Detroit authorities plan to destroy Detroit. The city government plans to raze 10,000 empty residential buildings by 2013. It's part of a "Managed Decline" policy that basically means  proposing to "down-size" the city, which essentially means getting people to move out of the least populated neighborhoods so that city services can be shut off to those areas, giving up on a city and finding something better to do with the land, or hoping that someone else does. There are even suggestions that much of Detroit should be left to return to farmland. Marx, too, called for the separation between town and countryside to disappear but it was in the context of a revolutionary change to the system of society.

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