Friday, August 26, 2011

what's sensible for Detroit?

Here's a city with an eviction problem, a vacant building problem, and a squatter problem. According to the Detroit News, the city has more than 100,000 vacant homes. Yet as columnist Mitch Albom, of the Detroit Free Press, noted the other day, good families are getting evicted even though they're struggling to live by the rules. The question is: why can't the city government bring these things together. No more demolition and eviction. Instead, a guided program that will turn decent homes over the families willing to engage in serious sweat equity.

As the Detroit News article shows, people feel very mixed about squatting -- because some of the squatters aren't serious and aren't good neighbors. But if the city and community groups policed the program so that only squatters intent on rehabbing their new homes and becoming part of the neighborhood were involved, it could work to preserve the city. After all, the prior policy of demolishing everything that lay vacant for too long resulted in a city with blocks dominated by the devastation of vacant lots.

As Quincy Jones, head of the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance, put it, "We should look at it both ways: How do we embrace it and turn the negative into a positive? All these homes are sitting and it's an open invitation for squatters. It [squatting and thus reoccupying vacant houses] helps prevent homes from being stripped. It's become the elephant in the room. We should promote keeping up the house."

Over to you, City Hall.

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