Speculators Own 20 Percent of Land Parcels in Detroit

Mapping the big land gamble made by speculators in Detroit.

Jay Tafilowski/WDET

A few investors making big gambles on the future value of land in Detroit are buying up lots of property. Speculators own about 20 percent of available land parcels in the city. But they have no real obligation to insure that land is well kept or fits into an overall neighborhood community.

Those are some of the findings from a new mapping project called Property Praxis started by Josh Akers, Assistant Professor of Geography and Urban and Regional Studies at University of Michigan-Dearborn.

Property Praxis

“There’s a hope that there’ll be a profit, and any kind of money you put into the house is a loss,” says Akers.

Akers says that means parcels often fall to blight and disarray, which the city and residents are trying to combat with millions of dollars of investment.

“We have a lot of focus on blight… but it sort of leaves out how blight is produced,” says Akers. He says there needs to be a wider view of how and why blight happens, and that includes the role of speculators. “How does this house get into this condition? How does it become a public nuisance?”

To hear more of Akers’ conversation on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.