There are dozens of steps that need to be followed to get a building a demolished. It frequently takes 7-9 months or more. In emergency situations, where the building may injure someone, the process can be compressed to 30 or 45 days.
Some of the steps:
- Initial inspection by the City's Buildings Safety Engineering and Environmental Department
- Owner is identified by searching property records.
- Notices sent to the owner's last know addresses
- First hearing; opportunity for the owner to respond
- Property goes to City Council; owner has an opportunity to respond. Council orders demolition
- Environmental / asbestos inspection
- Funding source for demolition is identified (see the discussion of funding sources below)
- Section 106 historical preservation review (done by the Council's planning commission) -- not done in emergency situations
- Water, gas, and electricity are shut off. Can take 90 days; 2-3+ public utilities are involved
- Demolition contractor is selected & assigned
- Permits for demolition issued
- Abatement if necessary
- Demolition occurs
- Final inspection of site occurs; City checks that the site has been graded etc (the "Final grade")
- Lots even get seeded with grass! They get one mowing some time after the final grade.
See this article from the Free Press for more details (if it's still online): "Getting a building demolished isn't as easy as you'd think"
Where the money comes from
Most of the funding for demolishing houses comes from several rounds of Neighborhood Stabilization Program. This funding is targeted at specific areas of the city, so even though there's a lot of money available, it can't be used anywhere.