Mathew Yglesias observes that Detroit has no bureaucracy for handling vacant properties and thus, civic institutions matter.
it drives home the extent to which Detroit’s problems are caused or exacerbating by totally dysfunctional municipal government
I would add that Detroit is one of the few large cities that does not have a ward system. This electoral system means that there is no alderman to represent a neighborhood full of empty lots or to champion a reform to allow a ward resident the lot consolidation he or she desires. As we've seen before though, Detroit has also been slow to adopt a good policy on blight with the creation of a land bank.