State to Detroiters: Sorry for demolishing your recently purchased homes

State officials took blame for demolishing up to 20 Detroit homes that recently were purchased at a Wayne County tax foreclosure sale.

Knowing they were placing people at risk of losing their new houses to a backhoe, state officials plowed through the demolition list without checking whether the properties were sold at an Oct. 24 auction, the Motor City Muckraker has discovered.

The state and county are required to work together to determine which houses to sell and which to demolish, but officials acknowledged they failed to do so adequately.

“It happened, and it’s regrettable,” said Dave Akerly, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Human Services, which played a role in the demolition program. “We have to do a better job of reconciling these sheets and minimizing the chances of this happening again.”

The Michigan Land Bank, an economic development engine for the state, said it may have been too poised to demolish, by year’s end, 250 dilapidated houses in Detroit that were in close proximity to schools.

“The homes are a danger to children, attract crime and are fire hazards,” Akerly said. “If a house goes vacant, it can get dangerous really fast.”

No doubt. Between 40,000 and 60,000 houses are believed to be vacant in Detroit. That number is expected to rise as Detroiters continue to move out. With the increase in abandonment comes the rise in arsons and other crimes.

Eager to attract new residents to the city, Mayor Dave Bing’s administration is reaching out to those impacted by the demolition blunder. That’s a blessing for Kristine Diven, who found her new east-side home reduced to rubble last week.

The Motor City Muckraker broke this story Tuesday.

Steve Neavling is an investigative journalist and former city hall reporter for the Detroit Free Press. Got tips or suggestions? Contact Steve at

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Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.