Detroit is the most battered large city in America. It has lost half of its population, down to 670,000, since 1950, as car manufacturing facilities and headquarters have moved elsewhere. The city declared Chapter 9 bankruptcy in 2013. The U.S. Census Bureau says that 35% of people in Detroit live below the poverty level.
One of the largest problems shrinking Detroit has caused is unused land and houses. Detroit has large numbers of homes for sale for only $1,000. The Detroit Land Bank Authority, founded in 2008, owns thousands of abandoned houses and properties.
The drop in population has also thinned out the number of children who go to school in the city. According to Deadline Detroit, Detroit has 63 empty public school buildings with 3.7 million square feet on 288 acres. Crain’s Detroit Business estimates it would cost over $823 million dollars to redevelop them.
So, what becomes of these schools, or more specifically, the school buildings? Most likely, the same thing that has happened to many properties the city already owns. They will be torn down, and the neighborhoods around them will stay or become vacant. The city already has razed over 15,000 homes under the Hardest Hit Fund, for which the federal government provided $265 million.
A rough estimate from the Census Bureau shows that Detroit has about 120,000 children between ages 5 and 18. It is impossible to tell how many of those children are not in school. What is certain is that the figure has plunged over the decades since many of Detroit’s schools were built.
Detroit has a current problem with 63 vacant schools. The trouble almost certainly will worsen. Detroit’s population continues to shrink. It dropped another 6% between 2010 and 2020. As Deadline Detroit pointed out, even if the city wanted to convert the schools for alternative use, a large number are so badly damaged by time that they are already useless.
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