The Vacant Property Task Force or VPTF, is a group of GRDC staff and community volunteers who have been meeting monthly since 2008 to devise effective strategies for vacant properties. These volunteers, co-chaired by volunteer residents Clarenda Webb and Diane Patterson, spend some days getting their hands dirty. There are two mower crews who go out on a weekly basis to maintain the lawns of several vacant homes. The task force operates on the theory that if a home is unoccupied, keeping it maintained keeps the scrapper, squatters, and other criminals away.

In 2015, VPTF took on two larger, green infrastructure projects. The Stahelin Avenue Project addressed a series of lots on Stahelin where badly damaged houses once stood. Where there were once vacant homes, there are now trees, flowering bushes, a walkway, decorative fencing and bollards. What used to be an eyesore is now a lovely green space, thanks to the efforts of many volunteers over the course of several months. The VPTF also took on the challenge of transforming the Southfield Service Drive. Formerly a collection spot for trash and overgrown weeds, the Green Buffer Zone on the Southfield now features native ground cover and trees. These strategies decrease the need for mowing, reduce storm water runoff, and reduce air and noise pollution and often engage corporate and student volunteers from outside of Grandmont Rosedale who come ready and willing to work.

The VPTF also engages businesses in Grandmont Rosedale by holding monthly “Trash Talkin’” events from May to October. Trash Talkers meet Saturday mornings for a half hour of coffee and conversation before they head out for about an hour of light litter pick up. These events take place at and around different businesses throughout Grandmont Rosedale, which not only engages businesses in keeping Grandmont Rosedale litter-free, but also introduces and familiarizes volunteers with the businesses in their neighborhood.

While vacant property maintenance is important and necessary, the VPTF also knows that advocacy to solve the problem of vacant properties is also imperative. The VPTF investigates squatters and deed fraud, and has advocated for demolition of dangerous buildings by attending hearings on these properties. Such activism has really paid off. More than 30 dangerous properties have been demolished in the Grandmont Rosedale community.

In order to gain a clear understanding of how best to combat vacant property, VPTF volunteers have surveyed each property in Grandmont Rosedale community, thus creating a useful map of where the vacant properties are, and in what state. This “blexting” is completed with the help of the city-wide Motor City Mapping project which documents properties throughout Detroit. The volunteers of the VPTF are thus helping develop a better understanding of the scope of blight city-wide and in turn will help in the development of a plan for addressing vacancies.

The VPTF knows that the best way to alleviate blight is to keep people in their homes. In 2014, the VPTF sponsored a Tax Foreclosure Prevention Workshop where over 100 homeowners who were in danger of losing their homes were given direction on how to keep their homes.

Much of the great work of the VPTF is about showing up and being willing to do the sometimes hard work of keeping Grandmont Rosedale a great place to live. Many of the events and activities of the VPTF could not happen without the help of many generous donors. The VPTF has fundraisers throughout the year to help off-set the cost of trash bags, gas for the mowers, flowers, and all the other costs that come with the work of the VPTF. Currently the VPTF is offering Christmas trees and wreaths as a way to raise funds for their next project. Click here to order your holiday tree or wreath. To help out the VPTF this holiday season while beautifying your own home, you can order your trees and wreaths here. Keep on an eye out for future fundraisers by “liking” the My Grandmont Rosedale Facebook pages where you can find out what the VPTF is up to next.