Detroit journalist Charlie LeDuff is known for holding people — particularly those in public office — accountable for their actions.
With the cost of tearing down houses in the Motor City doubling under Mayor Mike Duggan, who claims it's due to the “high cost” of dirt, LeDuff decided to do some investigating.
According to LeDuff's Fox 2 News report, contractors are required, by law, to fill the holes of demolished homes. They can fill them with whatever they'd like, so long as at least three feet of clean soil is on the top, a change from the previous law, which required an entire 8-foot hole to be filled completely with soil.
The move was an attempt to save the bankrupt city some money — yet the cost of demolitions has skyrocketed in recent years.
Mayor Duggan explained to Fox 2 in 2015 that the reason for the cost increase is a requirement for contractors to fill demolition sites with “clean” and “wet” soil.
But LeDuff found that instead of soil, the holes are being filled with rock, concrete and bits of brick:
Obviously, rocks are cheaper than rich soil, and yet the average cost per demolition has reportedly doubled from $10,000 to $20,000. Something doesn't quite add up and LeDuff wants the Mayor to answer for it. Duggan has yet to respond.
To point things in perspective, a 40 lb. bag of topsoil from Home Depot costs $1.65.
The City of Detroit's website states there have been 10,549 demolitions completed since 2014. The Detroit Land Bank Authority, which is a public entity in charge of turning vacant, abandoned, and foreclosed property into something “useful,” claims that the average price of a home demolition in 2016 is $12,556 — roughly $8,000 less than what LeDuff reported.
A major portion of demo work in Detroit is funded by the federal government from their Hardest Hit Fund (HHF), which has an annual budget of $9.6 billion. The program was created in 2010 to “to develop locally-tailored programs to assist struggling homeowners in their communities.”
Michigan has received $761,204,045 to date from the HHF.
LeDuff reports that Duggan's top lawyer, Melvin Hollowell, is looking to change the law from three feet of top soil to six inches:
He also wants to make all previous laws “retroactive” so the government avoids any “unintended consequences” for their previous actions, such as not properly filling the holes.
The Office of the Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) launched an investigation of Detroit Land Bank in March surrounding the rising cost of Detroit's demolition and destruction.
Fed-up taxpayers hope the investigation will answer the question: Where is our money really going?