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Detroit's Vacancy Is Easy To See, Hard To Quantify

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Detroit's most famous statistic of sadness (err... after the population loss figure) is a count of it's vacant square miles. And that number is 40. Unless that is a big fat lie. Turns out we're not so good at counting around here. The number might be 37 or 25 or 21.39. But who's counting?

Around here, demographer Kurt Metzger is known as the data guru. In 2009, his group did an important residential survey; everyone still uses its data today. Teams drove the city block by block, literally counting every house and residential lot. They found about a third were vacant or had structures that needed to be torn down.

Metzger figured if a third of residential properties were vacant, it confirmed this idea that 30-35% of the city was too (more or less 40 square miles). The idea was already out there. But where did it come from?

“I have no idea,” Kurt Metzger told me last week. “There are a lot of numbers that we keep pushing back on, but I don’t know where that original number came from.”

· Detroit has tons of vacant land. But forty square miles? [Michigan Radio]