It’s hard to see how any part of a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling can be considered fair, especially if you know a Flint, Michigan homeowner. The outer metro Detroit city, like the state, is struggling with an unemployment rate of 13.9 percent according to the United States Department of Labor (officially; that’s not considering chronic underemployment in the mix, of course) and yet now, if you still dare own a home in Flint despite all of the problems residents have faced over the years, it looks as though you’re going to have to help pay for the crumbling and condemned downtown eyesore, the Genesee Towers.
The empty towers, which occupants fled a decade ago, are now owned by the city of Flint. According to NPR, the Michigan Supreme Court won’t reconsider its decision to make the city pay $8 million for the privilege of ownership, after an arbitrator decided the city owed the Tower owners $6 million in 2007. The city condemned the 43 year old, 19 story building in 2004. Appeals mean Flint owes an additional $2 million and will now impose a tax assessment estimated to be about $150 per homeowner.
I’m lucky, I suppose- though I moved my son and his mother to Flint, we don’t own a home. If I were in the market, I’d be less enthusiastic right now. My in-laws, however, do own their home within the city limits and on a retiree’s pension have to come up with the extra tax.
The news on the Genesee Towers comes at a time when downtown Flint is in the midst of a comeback. Businesses are picking back up, as restaurants, a grocery store, and student housing fill the empty places that once dominated downtown. For many residents, there had been at least some optimism about the potential for downtown development, though at least a few (my son’s mother included) worry that over gentrification could lead to the city losing its gritty, industrial character. Fortunately, alongside the new yoga studio there are still many of the bad-for-you burger joints, tattoo parlors, and fun musical venues still in place.
And then, homeowners are handed this “gift” from the Michigan Supreme Court. Gee, thanks for nothing.
There is a way to recoup a bit of the loss, though. The American Institute of Architects is holding a competition, according to the Flint Journal, to try to provide a redevelopment strategy for the crumbling edifice. I’m not kidding about the crumbling part; the streets around the Tower are blocked off to prevent people from being hurt by chunks of falling concrete.
The contest will give the first place winner $1,000, the second place winner receives $500, and the third will see $250 in winnings. Any place would, of course, help offset the lovely tax coming in and maybe help out a friend or relative. It looks as though I’m going to have to start getting busy with ideas, and soon if I want to help out the in-laws.
Steve Carmody, “Flint taxpayers on the hook for $8 million on building deal” Michigan Radio / NPR
Kristin Longley, “Contest seeking ideas for revitalizing Genesee Towers” Flint Journal
United States Department of Labor