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Long haul

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My, how time flies when the city of Detroit is not having fun. Case in point: More than two years have passed since MCA Financial Corp. went belly-up and left the city to clean up the huge mess it left behind.

A $210-million company that specialized in providing mortgages to people with poor credit, MCA owned 3,400 properties in Detroit when it declared bankruptcy and folded shop in February 1999. A private company took over some 1,400 homes, leaving the city to deal with the rest. Because many needed major repairs, a nonprofit corporation was set up to renovate the properties before selling them. But coming up with the cash to fix all those shacks wasn’t easy. Paul Bernard, director of the city’s Planning and Development Department, first turned to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for a loan nearly two years ago.

“We’re still waiting for a response,” says Bernard, who eventually gave up on the feds and turned to the Detroit City Council for help. Earlier this month it agreed to fork over $15 million to the nonprofit.

Bernard predicts about 40 homes a month will be renovated. Forgive us our skepticism. After all, this is Detroit. And Bernard is talking about fixing up an average of 1.3 houses per day, seven days a week.

Right.

But it does seem the MCA fiasco, which sent shock waves through several poor Detroit neighborhoods, may be coming to a close.

Well, almost.

At the first bankruptcy hearing, it was alleged that MCA officials used homeowner money that should have gone toward property taxes and insurance payments to run the company during its final months.

The Michigan Attorney General’s Office is investigating former MCA CEO Pat Quinlan and some of his business cronies to determine whether to bring criminal charges, according to AG spokesperson Chris DeWitt. News Hits has been calling monthly, only to be told regularly by DeWitt that his office is still looking into the matter.

Memo to AG Jennifer Granholm: If you want to claim you care about Detroit during next year’s gubernatorial primary, make this case a priority. An awful lot of people here were burned by MCA, and we’re all watching to see what you do about it.

Ann Mullen contributed to News Hits, which is edited by Curt Guyette. He can be reached at 313-202-8004 or cguyette@metrotimes.com

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