WhyHunger joins with our partners at the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and other friends in Detroit in opposing a large-scale sale of public land proposed by real estate developer John Hantz. The proposed deal would grant Hantz 1956 lots (approximately 177 acres) of publicly-owned land at the fire-sale price of 8¢ per square foot. The purchase would be one of the largest urban land acquisitions ever seen in a U.S. city, and the biggest in Detroit’s history.

For years, residents of some of Detroit’s hardest-hit  communities, including members of DBCFSN and many others, have been working to reclaim their food security and economic independence through ambitious, successful, community-run urban agriculture projects. A land grab of this scale threatens to destroy the decentralized, grassroots-up model that these groups are pioneering, and would give disproportionate control over the city’s future to a single man.

Farmers at Detroit's D-Town Farms. Photo credit: Michael Hanson.

Further, the proposed deal has largely been negotiated behind closed doors. Due to strong public pressure in recent weeks, a City Council vote on the sale has been postponed and a public hearing has been scheduled for Monday, December 10th. The City’s own Planning Commission has come out against the deal, citing that the proposed sale:

  • is a speculative land deal “contrary to established land sale policies”;
  • would set an “inequitable precedent” for future land acquisition;
  • would afford Hantz “an advantage over any other developer”;
  • and that “the urgency to securing [the sale] for an ostensibly urban agricultural project without benefit of an urban ag ordinance has not been explained.”

The Planning Commission concludes, “it would be premature to authorize the proposed purchase agreement land sale at this time,” and goes on to say that “tree farming on the lower east side, if that really is the goal, is better ensured” by waiting until after the adoption of an urban agriculture ordinance.

For more on Detroit’s community-based agricultural and economic renaissance, watch DBCFSN in action:

For more details on the proposed sale, read “Cock o’ the Lots: Detroit Residents Fight Back a Land Grab.”

To take action:

  • Tweet and Facebook (as an organization and personally) about the deal.
    • Twitter hashtags: #Hantzlandia #LandGrab #HantzOff #DetroitFuture
  • Sample tweets
    • Halt the Detroit #LandGrab. #Hantzlandia offered 1900 lots for $300 each with tax breaks?! No tax breaks for urban ag?! #HantzOff #DetroitFuture.
    • Please stop the Detroit #LandGrab. Detroit is turning public land into a private estate. #HantzOff #DetroitFuture.
    • Detroit is becoming #Hantzlandia with the #LandGrab. 1900 acres going to a private developer, not the awesome community farms. #HantzOff #DetroitFuture
    • See all tweets here.
  • Write an editorial for a local paper, an article for a blog, or post a video on youtube.
  • Sign on to the Solidarity Statement of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance. Email info (at) usfoodsovereigntyalliance (dot) org.
  • http://www.detroitblackfoodsecurity.org,www.beblackandgreen.com Malik Yakini

    We appreciate the love and solidarity being shown to the people of Detroit. As we fight this struggle in Detroit, we realize that we have the opportunity to redefine our relationship to land. The current model of wealthy individuals owning and controlling large swaths of land is obsolete, unsustainable and exploitive. We are asserting that public land is for the common good and should be held in trust by communities.

  • Erma Leaphart

    I am a lifelong resident of Detroit and an advocate for urban agriculture. However, Detroit has 32 sq. miles of unused/underdeveloped lad. EVERYWHERE you look in Detroit, there is vacant land, abandoned buildings and trash. Hantz farms is proposing a solution to this in one relatively small area of Detroit (if I have converted correctly, 177 acres is less than 0.5 sq. miles of the 32 sq. miles referenced above). It is also my inderstanding that the City of Detroit has now negotiated a Development Agreement with Hantz farms that, appears to address the most urgent concerns I have heard. Kudos to DBCFSN and others for speaking out and assuring this was done and to the Planning Department for working diligently on our new Urban Agriculture ordinance.

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