Detroit urban farming entrepreneur gets 140 acres of land cheap

Detroit urban farming entrepreneur gets 140 acres of land for $520,000. That’s one very small house in Metro Vancouver.

Debate rages in Detroit about whether this is fair, a good deal for the city, a blatant land grab, or evidence of corruption at city hall. The bottom line is that while John Hantz is not exactly Mr. Community, he’s taking 1,500 out of 60,000 distressed repossessed lots off the city’s hands, promised to clean them up and starting some property tax revenues flowing. (If taxes are based on this value, the city won’t be getting much.)

Does anyone really expect this land to be permanently used for agriculture or forestry? Not likely, but the alternative for the city today is hardly desirable: let the lands stagnate, drain the city’s financial resources, add to blight, not produce any jobs. How can that be preferable to what Mr. Hantz is proposing? He’s quite open about looking at this project from a real estate lens. See my interview with him in my book.

If anyone else has a better idea, they should step forward. The good news is that there are still more than 50,000 abandoned city-owned lots available for other projects. Hantz’ model isn’t for everyone, but there’s room for everyone elsewhere in the city.



About Urban Food Revolution

Peter Ladner is a former Vancouver city councilor, Metro Vancouver vice-chair and business owner who is currently a weekly columnist at Business in Vancouver newspaper and a regular contributor to, a Seattle-based online news service. He is the author of The Urban Food Revolution: Changing the Way we Feed Cities, published by New Society in November, 2011. For the past two years he has been a Fellow at the SFU Centre for Dialogue researching, teaching and organizing public events around the theme Planning Cities as if Food Matters. He was first elected to Vancouver City Council in 2002, was re-elected in 2005 and ran for mayor in 2008. He is a former member of the TransLink Board, and was vice chair of the Metro Vancouver Board. Peter has been the publisher, president and part owner of the Business in Vancouver Media Group, which he co-founded in 1989. He has a lifelong interest in growing food. As a city councilor, he worked with the Vancouver Food Policy Council in initiating the city’s program to add 2010 food-producing community garden plots by 2010. He is vice-chair of the The Natural Step Canada, part of an international organization that advances sustainability in communities and corporations. He has a B.A. from UBC and did graduate work at the UBC School of Community and Regional Planning. He and his wife Erica have four adult children.
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