Ed Driscoll

In Soviet Detroit, City Pays You To Live There!

“Detroit firms’ incentives entice workers to consider city living,” the Detroit Free Press reports:

About 16,000 employees of five major companies in downtown Detroit will be eligible for cash incentives to buy or rent a residential unit in the greater downtown area under the Live Downtown program announced Monday.

The companies are DTE Energy, Compuware, Quicken Loans, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Strategic Staffing Solutions.

“The program will help create the density that downtown Detroit needs,” Mayor Dave Bing said at a news conference announcing the program. “Detroit is a city of renewed opportunity and distinct character.”

Well, that’s one way to put it, I guess. But wasn’t it just last year we were being told that the city needed the opposite of density?

Then one day about a year and a half ago, Hantz had a revelation. “We need scarcity,” he thought to himself as he drove past block after unoccupied block. “We can’t create opportunities, but we can create scarcity.” And that, he says one afternoon in his living room between puffs on an expensive cigar, “is how I got onto this idea of the farm.”

Yes, a farm. A large-scale, for-profit agricultural enterprise, wholly contained within the city limits of Detroit. Hantz thinks farming could do his city a lot of good: restore big chunks of tax-delinquent, resource-draining urban blight to pastoral productivity; provide decent jobs with benefits; supply local markets and restaurants with fresh produce; attract tourists from all over the world; and — most important of all — stimulate development around the edges as the local land market tilts from stultifying abundance to something more like scarcity and investors move in. Hantz is willing to commit $30 million to the project. He’ll start with a pilot program this spring involving up to 50 acres on Detroit’s east side. “Out of the gates,” he says, “it’ll be the largest urban farm in the world.”

How’s that competing plan for post-apocalyptic Detroit coming?