More than a year after Detroit Mayor Dave Bing launched a campaign to lure police and firefighters back to the city by selling rehabbed homes on the cheap, the program has sold six houses, reports the Detroit News. City officials call that a start to a Project 14 program they’re confident will be a success. Skeptics say it’s a questionable use of $5 million in federal grant money that could be spent elsewhere, including on demolitions and home improvements for needy residents.
Taxpayers have spent $500,000 to rehab six homes, including $160,000 on one. Some in law enforcement say the effort may be well-intentioned, but officers won’t return to the city in meaningful numbers as long as crime, high taxes, and school troubles persist. “I am surprised they actually have six,” said Mark Diaz, an 18-year police veteran. “Police officers have a front-row seat to the fact that we are understaffed. Do we really want to put our own families at risk?” Those who live in neighborhoods served by the project said it could increase the tax base and attract more homeowners. The project gets its name from police code for “back to normal.” Bing wants to reverse a decade-long exodus of public safety officers since the state outlawed residency requirements in 1999. About half the city’s 2,700 officers live outside the city.