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A New App is Helping to Fight Urban Blight in Detroit

Detroit SkylineDetroit has a blight problem, and in many ways, it’s inhibiting the city’s future recovery. The east side has many quaint homes with families working to be part of a better, bright community. But every few homes, instead of a community garden, there’s a vacant structure — blight at work.

“We have just a few dark spots, like this house right here, and that house over there,” said one local, John Young. Although city leaders are hard at work trying to fix the ongoing problem, it’s more than a minor task.

Altogether, there are 115,000 vacant lots, and another 80,000 vacant structures. Beyond that, many piles of illegally dumped trash also take up space and bring down the value of local neighborhoods.

In order to fight this problem, tech savvy individuals have teemed up with organizations including Data Driven Detroit and Motor City Mapping in order to create a blight-related cell phone app. Right now, smartphone users spend 18% of their time on their phones surfing the web. The app allows users to share information about their neighborhood’s current conditions. This is known as “blexting.”

“We’ve used Motor City Mapping to understand exactly what is happening on the ground, understand which neighborhoods in the city are strongest, and be able to target those neighborhoods for our nuisance abatement program or for demo activities,” says Carrie Lewand-Monroe, who works with the Detroit Land Bank.

The Land Bank helps to stimulate the Detroit housing market through auctioning off abandoned property. They also sue landowners in order to get them to give up their abandoned land, so that it can be placed in the hands of someone who will care for it. The blight app “drives all of our decisions,” adds Lewand-Monroe.

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