Detroit demolition program criticized for lack of diversity

June 15, 2018 GMT

DETROIT (AP) — Detroit’s federally funded demolition program is facing criticism for its lack of diversity with only 26 percent of the blight remediation work going to minority-owned companies.

A Detroit Free Press analysis of public records has found that just 16 percent of the federal dollars disbursed in the city’s demolition program have been awarded to black-owned firms. The contract work awarded is disproportionate to Detroit’s population, which is more than 79 percent black.

Critics and some officials argue that there are many minority business owners who could do the work but they’re being shut out of consideration.

As of June 6, the city had awarded about 20 contractors more than $148 million in contracts for more than 10,360 demolitions.

Detroit’s demolition program, which began in 2014, is dominated by two large non-black-owned companies, Adamo and Homrich, which have earned more than $72 million of the funding combined.

The amount of demolition work awarded to black contractors has also seen a precipitous drop since 2015. Black-owned companies were awarded $10.4 million in 2015, $5.7 million in 2016 and $5.8 million last year.

“It’s egregious,” Jason Cole, former executive director of Michigan Minority Contractors Association’s Detroit chapter, said of the low rate of participation. “At the end of the day, they (the city) started with good intentions but they didn’t necessarily complete it. Sixteen percent is concerning for folks because we have people — we have contractors in this demolition space.”

Deb Taitt, owner of Smash Wrecking, said the fight for access to contracts has been going on for years in every part of the city’s contracting process. She suggested creating a program for small contractors to participate and grow.

City officials have recognized the need to use a more diverse group of contractors for the demolition program, but they say they’re limited in part by state and federal policies.

“I wouldn’t attempt to argue that there are not enough (minorities) but I would articulate to them that this program dictates the rules and regulations by which we can award contracts, period,” said Tammy Daniels, director of Land Bank Demolition, which manages the city’s demolition program. “We are in the very infant stages of trying to figure out what we need to do to recruit more contractors. Diversity in the program is a benefit to us.”


Information from: Detroit Free Press,