North Pointe Village

North Pointe Village is a failed housing development in the city of Highland Park, MI. Ground was broken in December of 2005 for 153 units of infill single-family housing in a distressed neighborhood bounded by Woodward Avenue, Oakland, Ferris, and McNichols streets.

Three different models of houses were offered – a ranch style home, and two colonial style two-story homes. A press release from the city of Highland Park noted, “…the new modular housing has three bedrooms, two baths, kitchen, living and dining spaces and full basements. The housing will have landscaping and driveways. Garages are optional… These homes will come equipped with alarm systems, security lighting, sump pumps and appliances.”

The houses were to be built alongside existing housing in the neighborhood, which had significant gaps due to original housing being abandoned and demolished. Prices were to range from $130,000 to $155,000, a very high price in a city where the median household income in 1999 was $17,737, the median home value was $49,800, and 32.1% of residents lived below the poverty line.

Financing would be achieved via “a unique rent to own program that is designed to create first-time home buyers after a two-year or less credit repair effort.” In addition, “Applicants will also be required to participate in the local neighborhood watch program, join the existing community organization, attend classes on neighborhood living skills, and home repair and be subjected to credit and criminal background checks.”

The first homeowners moved sometime in February of 2005.

106 houses appear to have been completed, with several empty foundations dug. It’s not clear how many houses were occupied under the original plan, as the developer and contractor both went bankrupt and abandoned the project. The quality of the houses turned out to be much lower than promised with defective roofs, and plumbing; other units never had back porches installed, leaving the sliding glass doors on the rear hovering five feet off the ground, facing a dirt lot.

Almost immediately after being constructed, units awaiting sale were quickly broken into and looted by scrappers who carted off everything of value. "People just came through, and they even pushed furnaces down the street," resident Michael Curry told WDIV. While a number of the houses were occupied by 2008, many were boarded up and left vacant, some without ever having been lived in. A few of them have burned down, leaving charred shells and empty lots.

The houses that were originally priced starting at $130,000 now go for less than $5,000 – if anyone actually buys them. A developer bought 13 of them intending to rehab the damaged units, paying between $2,000 and $8,000 for each unit. At least one of the houses was given to a refugee of Hurricane Katrina in 2006; Linda Davis was initially grateful for the support she received, but later felt abandoned when promised assistance never materialized.

The cost of the $20 million development was borne in part by out of state investors, 10 of which later sued the developers. The lawyer representing them told WDIV Detroit “each of his clients bought five homes to rent out with an average asking price of $130,000. He said his clients were too trusting and, being from California, had no idea the Highland Park property was overvalued;” and that they “were convinced by a promotional brochure that said, ‘Investing has never been so easy.’"

What was once touted as “a wonderful Christmas present for the citizens of our city” by City Council President Dr. Ameenah Omar in 2005 has been effectively disowned by its developers, financers, and city. “Those houses would be totally unacceptable to me personally. They are not sufficient for the citizens of Highland Park, " Omar said just three years later. The city began bulldozing vacant units in 2011, but many still remain. Due to their poor condition and build quality, it’s very unlikely that they will ever be occupied. Many now are in worse shape than the houses they were built next to, which have been abandoned for much longer.

"This whole thing was a rip-off," said Curry. The citizens of Highland Park are bearing the cost of this poorly-planned and expensive failure still today.