U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence Raises Concerns About Auditor General’s Findings on Detroit’s Blight Elimination Program
Detroit, MI - I am incredibly alarmed by the findings of the Detroit Auditor General’s report into Detroit’s demolition program. As a member of Congress, the health and well-being of my constituents, and the state of Michigan, is of paramount importance. For that reason, in April, I sent letters to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy regarding the potential use of contaminated soil being used to fill the demolition holes. Shortly after, federal prosecutors unsealed criminal charges against two individuals accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes following a lengthy investigation into the demolition program.
Over the last several years, the city of Detroit has received over $530 million, with $243 million in federal funds, to administer the program. In June, at my request, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) announced an evaluation into its requirements for demolitions in the Hardest Hit Fund Blight Elimination Program. Since that announcement, I have continued to engage with SIGTARP for updates on their work, and I look forward to the release of their evaluation.
The demolition program in Detroit has been marred by a lack of oversight and administrative failures that beleaguer an otherwise beneficial program to the city. As a member of the House Committees on Appropriations and Oversight and Reform, it is my duty to ensure the proper use of federal funds, and the Detroit Auditor General’s report demonstrates a gross lack of oversight. Following the Detroit Auditor General’s report, I expect the city of Detroit to institute a more robust system of oversight to ensure the demolition program is operating effectively and in the best interest of the constituency it serves.
I urge the city of Detroit to work with relevant federal agencies to ensure the health and well-being of its residents are protected. In order to provide the people of Detroit with the certainty they deserve, I request that the city of Detroit immediately begin to remediate all demolition sites to ensure there are no environmental risks associated with the demolition program.