Detroit squatter markets in everything

by on September 17, 2015 at 3:06 pm in Current Affairs, Economics, Law, Uncategorized | Permalink

Wanted: One good squatter.

It’s no joke. In a remote pocket of northwest Detroit along the Rouge River, neighbors are so desperate to stop a cycle of abandonment and blight they’re recruiting a squatter to occupy a home whose longtime owners left last weekend.

That’s because neighbors fear the onetime farmhouse on Puritan and Hazelton will be stripped and torched if it remains empty for long. Eight nearby houses burned in the past two years. A few blocks away, there are more weedy lots than homes.

A co-founder of one neighborhood group explained:

“You want someone in the house when it’s still functioning. Otherwise, it will be destroyed in 24 hours.”

In this case the homeowners are asking potential squatters for references, so as to avoid drug dealer squatters.  How about some Syrian squatters?

Technically, squatting in Detroit is against the law but it is often tolerated.  But not all settlement attempts pass legal muster:

“The over-arching theme is that the city of Detroit does nothing, so we’re forced to do our own thing,” said Brown, 34, a Wayne County Community College professor.

Brown also made headlines last year. That’s when she and her husband, David, bought a $2,000 house in the neighborhood in hopes of forming a kibbutz, a Jewish communal settlement. City officials seized backyard goats and charged the couple with violating ordinances.

The full article is here, hat tip goes to a loyal MR reader.

1 JJ September 17, 2015 at 3:18 pm

I guess when we jokingly say that communism is the absolutely dead last possibility on the list of economic systems to try, what we mean is starting a kibbutz in Detroit.

2 Strangely enough, another JJ September 17, 2015 at 4:59 pm

Google “Detroit urban homesteading”

3 guest September 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm

JJ, well said . . .

4 dearieme September 17, 2015 at 3:25 pm

You gotta admire anyone who can restrict goats to a backyard.

5 Cooper September 17, 2015 at 4:10 pm

City has empty land. Family buys the land and tries to build a new life. City steals the family’s property, threatens them with imprisonment and forces them to do community service.

City wonders why it’s having problems attracting news residents.

LMAO. Detroit’s government is its own worst enemy.

6 IVV September 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm

“But but but… who can we boss around and tax and fine if nobody comes to us?”

7 Nathan W September 17, 2015 at 9:34 pm

Just about every city in the West has laws against livestock in the city.

8 Kruk September 18, 2015 at 12:00 am

Most cities in the West are actually cities, and not designations of rural acreage where a city once stood.

9 Handle September 17, 2015 at 3:53 pm

What would Coase say? They aren’t just buying the properties and paying taxes and for security guards because it’s cheaper to rent a squatter and the odds of legal problems are negligible? Obviously they can coordinate enough to rent the squatter, so that’s not the problem.

And, well, Detroit is already settled, with millions of productive people in the greater metropolitan area. It’s just that they don’t want to live within the city limits, even if the real estate is practically free.

10 Mark Thorson September 17, 2015 at 7:19 pm

Please, don’t call them “squatters” anymore. They’re domestic occupancy providers.

11 ivvenalis September 17, 2015 at 11:34 pm

“They aren’t just buying the properties and paying taxes and for security guards because it’s cheaper to rent a squatter and the odds of legal problems are negligible?”

Yeah, I think that’s basically it. It just seems strange because the market value of the property is so low: if the building were unoccupied, it would have negative value to the neighborhood, but it’s also not worth securing. Actually buying it would be a waste of money for any individual, *especially* if the titular owners are aware of a potential buyer’s willingness to pay to avoid the negative externalities caused by vacancy. So they basically just hire a groundskeeper, with de facto living quarters as payment.

12 Ben September 17, 2015 at 4:07 pm

What a brilliant idea. Take marginalized Syrians and place them in an unstable, violent environment. Certainly the synergy of Syrian refugees and Detroit culture will make for a generation of easygoing, peaceful people.

13 Hoosier September 17, 2015 at 4:13 pm

There’s already a large Arab population in Detroit so they wouldn’t feel out of place.

14 Doug September 17, 2015 at 5:05 pm

Mostly Christian Arabs, fleeing the terror wrought by their Muslim neighbors. It’s like saying circa 1945 that we could resettle Germans fleeing the Red Army in lower Manhattan because of Schwartzes and Steins who live there.

15 Chris S September 17, 2015 at 5:28 pm

Have you been to Dearborn? I am sure there are some Christian Arabs but most are Muslim.

Fordson High School’s players were observed Ramadan during football season – they practiced 10pm-2am in the summer/fall and then were usually able to break fast during halftime. Dearborn is also home to the largest mosque in North America, the Islamic Center of America.

(Dearborn is the suburb immediately east of Detroit – many of the Arab population have moved across the border into West Detroit. Story I heard was that Mayor Hubbard of Dearborn woo’d the Arabs to East Dearborn in the 1960s as a racial buffer between the blacks of Detroit and the whites of West Dearborn.)

Great falafel and hummus, for sure.

16 PD Shaw September 17, 2015 at 6:04 pm

So if we allow Syrians to colonize Detroit, they might just move to Dearborn, or Las Vegas?

17 Jan September 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Come for the democracy, stay for the free land.

18 Jan September 17, 2015 at 6:05 pm

Grew up in the area. Good number of Chaldeans and other Christian Arabs, but not the majority. Lots of Muslims.

19 bjssp September 17, 2015 at 4:22 pm

I can’t think Detroit is worse than a large part, if not all of Syria at the moment. It might not be great, but it’d be an upgrade.

As Hoosier notes, there’s a large Arab population in the area, which definitely makes it easier. Beyond that, think of the benefits for Detroit: it gets an influx of people, which helps with sucking up otherwise wasted homes and land, who turn into customers at its businesses and expand the tax base. It’d be a lot cheaper, I’d guess, than some sort of direct transfer of funds.

20 Urstoff September 17, 2015 at 4:41 pm

Seems like a win for both sides: Syrians get out of a war-torn country and Detroit gets an influx of population that it so desperately needs.

21 mpowell September 17, 2015 at 4:54 pm

Wouldn’t it be simpler for the suburbs to just start encroaching back on the city? Seems like an obvious solution.

22 Urstoff September 17, 2015 at 4:58 pm

Not as long as people would have to move from the governance of one of the suburbs to the governance of Detroit proper.

23 Jason Bayz September 17, 2015 at 5:10 pm

Living in the slums Americans just won’t live in…..

24 Urstoff September 17, 2015 at 5:11 pm

Beggars can’t be choosers, as they say.

25 Keith September 17, 2015 at 6:20 pm

Why is more people the solution? Hooray! Detroit has more parkland.

26 Urso September 18, 2015 at 8:44 am

Is “Detroit” some freestanding entity, independent of the people who live there? Why and how does “Detroit” have needs (or wants)?

27 Jamie_NYC September 17, 2015 at 4:55 pm

And they will have a Jewish kibbutz next door. What could possibly go wrong?

28 Dmitri Helios September 17, 2015 at 5:02 pm

+1

29 John September 17, 2015 at 5:08 pm

Complicated history for Syria and native Jewish communities. I’d expect at least some Syrians would be smart enough to realize “we’re all refugees now”

30 MIke A. September 17, 2015 at 5:58 pm

And I’d expect some Syrians to be totally indoctrinated by radical Islamic thought and unsocialized to western values like “religious tolerance”

31 John September 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

Are they the ones who would apply for an American visa? I’d think that anyone truly “indoctrinated by radical Islamic thought and unsocialized to western values” would want to stay in Syria and kill somebody.

32 Chris S September 17, 2015 at 5:30 pm

Much of Detroit is now less dangerous and violent, than deserted. However, in addition to the existing racial problems, there is now sunni / shia strife in the area as well.

33 Jan September 17, 2015 at 6:07 pm

Not so much with the strife.

34 Tom Warner September 17, 2015 at 5:24 pm

Very sad. I suppose the motive for the squatter is to avoid the property taxes that would come with buying for nearly nothing a similar house out of foreclosure? Do these squatters get power, running water, waste removal? That would seem very important.

35 Chris S September 17, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Squatters get an upgrade from the cardboard box.

36 Andreas Moser September 21, 2015 at 3:50 pm

Not everyone wants to own property. If I owned a house, I would feel like a big stone was tied to my leg.

37 JWatts September 17, 2015 at 5:43 pm

“In this case the homeowners are asking potential squatters for references, so as to avoid drug dealer squatters. How about some Syrian squatters?”

The US has plenty of nominally homeless people. Why would you want to keep them homeless? Seriously, what’s the logic behind that idea.

38 John September 17, 2015 at 6:02 pm

Homelessness, as a problem, is underrated.

39 crop September 17, 2015 at 6:09 pm

Utah’s “Housing First” initiative appears successful in reducing long-term homelessness( http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865627447/Chronic-homelessness-in-Utah-down-91-percent-under-decade-long-Housing-First-initiative.html?pg=all ) however, Detroit would appear to lack the resources to provide for other needs. If the Michigan Governor put his money where his mouth is and funded jobs for his proposed immigrants providing security and other services to the community, the programs might actually be complementary. But as it is, there is a sad history of Arab and Chaldean small business owners being murdered in the area. http://www.arabamericannews.com/news/news/id_8436/Remembering-Arabs-and-Chaldeans-who-were-killed-working-to-support-their-families.html

40 Dmitri Helios September 17, 2015 at 7:48 pm

I trust the Arabs who were enterprising enough to walk across half a continent to be smart enough to make Detroit livable again. A lot of them are educated and ambitious. As for the native homeless, unless disabled (physically or mentally) or suffering from some freak hardship, they have no excuse for ending up homeless in the land of plenty (no irony). Even giving them free real estate in Detroit wouldn’t help them. We need enterprising squatters.

41 rayward September 17, 2015 at 5:46 pm

I understand that Jeb Bush wishes to remove the dark-skinned squatters in the White House who moved in after his brother abandoned the place. “You want someone in the house when it’s still functioning”, said Mr. Bush. Someone, like my brother, who “kept us safe”, he added.

42 Art Deco September 17, 2015 at 6:49 pm

I understand that Jeb Bush wishes to remove the dark-skinned squatters in the White House who moved in after his brother abandoned the place.

You fancy the Obama’s now own the place? Or that they need to be ‘removed’ because they won’t leave voluntarily?

43 derek September 17, 2015 at 10:53 pm

The country would obviously show itself irredeemably racist if it doesn’t let them stay another four years.

I’ve often wondered how places like Detroit happen. Raywards comment goes a long way towards explaining it.

44 Cliff September 17, 2015 at 10:41 pm

Sick and racist

45 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 7:22 pm

We could mimic this without letting any Syrians in. Just to make sure it works.

We could make Food Stamps and Disability conditional on living in Detroit.

It would have two great effects. 1. It would provide the warm bodies that Detroit obviously needs and 2. it would free up a lot of potentially very valuable real estate in places like Brooklyn and Oakland.

Sounds like a win-win. Admittedly I don’t think people are fungible. I don’t think that more of the sort of voters that created Detroit’s mess are going to help. Nor do I think that the sort of people who created Syria’s mess will help either. The sort of people who made Grosse Point Grosse Point is what Detroit needs. But isn’t going to get. Detroit certainly won’t get them if you encourage a million people whose religion tells them 9 year old girls are acceptable for marriage to move there. Not after Rotherham.

The only realistic path to improvement in Detroit is an aggressive police campaign to jail as many criminals for as long as possible. Followed by encouraging business back into the city. Followed by encouraging Gays and young couples with no children to move back in to the center of town. The kibbutz is probably not a bad first step. Ask the Gays of the Netherlands how safe it is to walk in large Dutch cities these days.

46 Dmitri Helios September 17, 2015 at 7:49 pm

I trust the Arabs who were enterprising enough to walk across half a continent to be smart enough to make Detroit livable again. A lot of them are educated and ambitious. As for the native homeless, unless disabled (physically or mentally) or suffering from some freak hardship, they have no excuse for ending up homeless in the land of plenty (no irony). Even giving them free real estate in Detroit wouldn’t help them. We need enterprising squatters.

47 E. Harding September 17, 2015 at 8:21 pm

Just like Mexicans did to Washington, DC and L.A.

48 So Much For Subtlety September 17, 2015 at 8:24 pm

Dmitri Helios September 17, 2015 at 7:49 pm

Why aren’t they smart and enterprising enough to make Syria livable?

Twenty percent of them are illiterate. That would probably reduce the literacy rate in Detroit.

49 Yancey Ward September 17, 2015 at 9:07 pm

I looked at the neighborhood on Google Streetview. It looks quite pleasant, though I didn’t follow the roads to find the homes that were reportedly burnt down.

50 Minority Bolshevism September 17, 2015 at 11:20 pm

Great idea!

The kibbutznikim would volunteer to teach in the madrassah.

The Imam would wake everybody before dawn.

The natives would supply the fireworks.

They would all sing the Internazionale around the bonfire.

Starbucks would open a kosher and halal coffee shop.

Let’s open a squatters’ agency.

51 Andreas Moser September 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm

I volunteer!

I work as a freelancer, location-independent as long as I have internet. And a change of place would be nice. A new neighborhood to write about.

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