I saw an interview on PBS a few days ago about hantzfarmsdetroit.com. The owner of the hantz group still lives in Detroit and wants to plant trees on all the vacant lots in Detroit. 240,000 people left Detroit between 2000 and 2010. I don’t know how many lots that translates to and I don’t know how big the lots are but the interview mentioned 10,000 acres. Detroit city council will vote soon on letting this group just get 170 acres to start with. Hantzfarmsdetroit.com only wants to pay $300/lot. They will clean up the lots, keep the property maintained and plant the trees. They figure it will 40 to 60 years before they harvest the trees. They could also sell some smaller trees as nursery stock.
The company I worked at used to hold a clothing drive for COTS, which is located in Detroit. COTS is an acronym for Coalition On Temporary Shelter. The place is a 10 story hotel and it was always full. I drove the truck over to COTS a couple of times. So Detroit has plenty of people needing shelter. My suggestion for Detroit is to end exclusionary zoning and allow a free housing market. People should be able to place a home of their own choosing on a residential lot. Poverty has two sides. On the one hand is what you earn and on the other hand is what you spend. Anything that can be done to increase what you earn or decrease what you spend will go that much further toward eliminating poverty. Ending exclusionary zoning works on reducing the spending side.
I went from paying $3,720/yr in lot rent to a mobile home park to paying $662/yr in property taxes once I was allowed to place my singlewide mobile home on a residential lot outside of the mobile home park. Too bad I had to wait until I lost my job and then retire in order to do this. Once I no longer had a job that I had to commute to every day then I was free to move to an area that allowed me to place my singlewide on a residential lot and just pay property taxes like everyone else. I lived at Little Valley Estates mobile home park in Farmington Hills, MI (near Detroit-closest major intersection was Eight Mile and Middlebelt). I lived there for 18 years because Farmington Hills says your home has to be at least 24 feet wide and conform to existing housing.
I paid $12,500 for a quarter acre lot and it cost just under $10,000 to move my singlewide 300 miles and place it on this lot. That included running an underground electric line and rerouting the water line. There was already a sewer hookup on the property. I made this suggestion to Detroit Mayor Bing back in 2010 when I saw him on the TV program ‘60 Minutes’. I sent him a letter with photos of my singlewide at the mobile home park location and at the new location and suggested that by ending exclusionary zoning he might attract some residents.
My recent contact to the mayor was via an email with a link to my face book album ‘Inside My Singlewide’. Here’s a link to my face book page where you can view pictures of my singlewide. As you will see, it’s a neat little home. Just copy and paste it into your browser. All my photos are public. https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.149213788455629.25303.100001010274735&type=3&l=e9e55b12ea
There are no doubt many Detroit residents who are renting. They could become homeowners and save themselves a lot of money. Think about all the people who lost a lot of their pension money. How about all the people who lost a home to foreclosure? What about all the flood victims and wild fire victims? Global warming is making it hotter and hotter. I sure wouldn’t want to live any further south than Ohio. Detroit’s climate is only improving with global warming. Detroit has plenty of water, no wild fires, no hurricanes and no flooding. If people could park a motor home on a lot then you could attract retirees back to Detroit during the summer when it’s just too hot in Florida and practically everywhere else down south. In the winter these retirees could go back down south and enjoy the warmer weather.
The recession has put a lot of people who were close to retirement out of work. That’s what happened to me. I lost my job at 59 in Oct 2008. I decided to just retire (didn’t even apply for unemployment). I paid off my singlewide in less than 2 years so I didn’t flush a lot of money down the 30 yr mortgage toilet. I was not able to save for retirement prior to my last job and that job only lasted 22 yrs. I had a good employer for 20.5 yrs and then they sold the business to another company. I worked for the new company for 18 months and then they let me go. Anyway I had a plan B. I had been saving as much money as I could and bought single premium immediate income for life annuities. I bought one in 2005 and had just purchased another in early 2008. After I lost my job in Oct 2008 I only had to wait until Feb 2009 when I was 59 and a half to draw out my 401K money to buy a third income for life annuity. So if you have an income then you don’t need a job. The good company I worked at for 20.5 yrs has a pension and I’ll start drawing that when I’m 65. I’m waiting until I reach 70 to start getting social security. I’m living on around $10k/yr so I know I’ll need 4 times that if I live another 40 yrs. So I’ll be covered by the time my pension and social security kick in.
There have got to be a lot of people who would just like to retire but feel they can’t afford it. Detroit could appeal to people like that. Imagine an ad such as the following:
Would you like to retire but don’t think you can afford it? Think again. Detroit has no exclusionary zoning. That means you can place a singlewide mobile home on a lot and just pay property taxes of $650/yr. You can also park a motor home on a lot and live in that. How about living in a camper van or a travel trailer? You’re welcome in Detroit. We cater to anyone who just wants to live a happy, healthy, affordable, peaceful life. You see in Detroit we respect your constitutional right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We believe you have the right to place a home of your own choosing on any residential lot. Think about it. No more home owners association collecting dues and telling you how to live your life.
Here’s another ad they could run in the appropriate market:
Has your expensive, traditional, site built home been destroyed by a hurricane, wild fire, flood or tornado? Instead of rebuilding, why not just sell your lot and live in Detroit? We don’t have hurricanes, wild fires or floods. We have plenty of good water. You can place a singlewide mobile home or practically any other dwelling you choose on one of our lots and live a happy life. We seldom get any tornadoes but if that did happen then you could replace your smaller home as easily and as cheaply as you’d replace your car.
Here’s another ad they could run at any retirement community in the heat belt:
Is global warming making your summer here in the heat belt almost unbearable? How about buying a lot in Detroit? You could live up here during the summer and come back to the heat belt in the winter. You see we’ve ended exclusionary zoning in Detroit forever. It’s in our city preamble: “The American Dream is to live in a home of one’s own choosing. Detroit shall establish no covenant or restriction that runs contrary to this dream.” We’ll even put it in your deed so that as long as you own your lot you’ll be able to live in a home of your own choosing no matter what laws the city might adopt in the future. For example, you could leave a travel trailer or motor home parked here year round or just place a singlewide mobile home on your lot. So you could have a very affordable second home in a cooler northern climate. Don’t let global warming spoil your retirement half of the year. If all the ice melts and Florida ends up under water then at least you’ve planned ahead and have a plan B.
Detroit could attract urban pioneers who have jobs less than an hour’s commute away. Offer the lot to anyone who cleans up the lot and lives on it and pays taxes on it for 10 yrs. Again it’s affordability that would be the main selling point. Anyone with an internet connection can do home schooling now at KahnAcademy.com. Paint some lines on existing roads for bike lanes and make the city pedestrian and bicycle friendly. They could fill up all the lots that hantzfarmsdetroit.com wants to plant trees on. Freedom leads to prosperity. If safety is an issue at least they’d be getting property tax money to hire police to address that issue. By making life more affordable for their current residents then shouldn’t that reduce crime? Doesn’t poverty and crime go hand and hand? So less poverty means less crime. Isn’t it worth a shot before you sell 10,000 acres to hantzfarmsdetroit.com at just $300/lot? I paid $12,500 for my quarter acre lot just so I could put my singlewide on it and live an affordable retirement. Social Security might get cut to 75% unless it gets fixed. Medicare might not last past 2022. People need affordability.
Honorable Detroit Mayor Bing and respected members of the Detroit City Council: You may think that ending exclusionary zoning and allowing mobile housing would make it too easy for people to leave Detroit. But it would also make it very easy for people to come to Detroit. Many current residents might walk away from current mortgages or quit renting to get in on this very affordable life style. Well many would probably do just that. But the poverty would be reduced and so then would the crime be reduced. Detroit could blossom and be all about inclusion as Dr King once dreamed. Rodney King once said “Can’t we all get along?” Detroit’s answer could be “Yes we can.” As President Obama recently said in his speech at the Democratic convention: “Let’s turn to each other and not on each other.”