Stop tax handouts to Detroit developers

March 21, 2023

From the March-April 2023 issue of News & Letters

Detroit, Mich.—On Feb. 14, a small but vigorous demonstration in front of Cass Technical High School called by the Detroit People’s Platform protested tax increment financing (TIF) for downtown development projects, which flourish while tax-funded public libraries and schools struggle to make ends meet.

Photo: Susan Van Gelder for News & Letters


Protesters demanded an end to public funds for billionaire developers Steven Ross and the Illitch family, creators of “District Detroit” surrounding Little Caesars’ Arena, where their decade-long incomplete development projects have only added to blight. We called out the Neighborhood Advisory Council for failing to stand firm for real community benefits or stop the city’s weak enforcement of previous community benefit agreements.

The widespread but crazily obscure practice of TIF results in public money being given to private developers, especially in low-income rural and urban areas. A “district” is defined and property taxes within its boundaries are frozen. Theoretically the investment “raises all boats” by increasing property values within the district, and would also raise property taxes if they hadn’t been frozen. That incremental increase is given to the developer. Right. No wonder more of us aren’t out there protesting!

According to The Detroit News, research shows that the increased property values often fail to materialize. “This development doesn’t appear to be about rebuilding a distressed urban economy in Detroit…. This particular proposal is one more decoration of the central business district…”

—Angry Detroit homeowner

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