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Squatters Disrupt Detroit’s Plans to Bulldoze Its Way to Prosperity

At a cost of hundreds of millions of tax dollars, Detroit has launched its plan to contract the size of its city by demolishing thousands of abandoned buildings in areas blighted by decay. But the city is repeatedly running into squatters living in the abandoned buildings, slowing the city’s effort to bulldoze its way to prosperity.

Early last year a wide-ranging survey of the Motor City’s buildings was conducted showing that 30 percent of them were deserted, dilapidated and filled with vermin. After the survey the city announced plans to destroy all the abandoned houses and to contract the size of the city to a smaller area so police, fire, and other services would be easier to perform.

It was estimated then that it could cost at least $850 million to eliminate the blighted areas and get residents to move into the contracted zone designated as the new boundary for the city.

At last the plan to bulldoze large swaths of the city has been put into motion, but as demolition crews have begun to go about their job of tearing down the blighted buildings they are constantly running into buildings illegally occupied by squatters. And every time squatters are found, crews are forced to stop their work and call police who are tasked with turning out occupants who are breaking the city’s trespassing laws.

This constant stoppage is slowing down Detroit’s efforts to eliminate blighted areas of the city.

Some residents call these buildings “abandonminiums” and claim that when they move in they usually begin to make some repairs or cut the grass to make the yard look presentable. Some feel that living rent free in abandoned homes is a “service” to the community.

But one Detroiter has it right; squatting is no good for anyone.

East Village resident and local block captain Latisha Johnson said that squatters are part of the problem, not the solution.

“I don’t personally believe that any squatter is a good squatter,” she told WWJ TV Detroit. “You don’t know exactly what is going on in that house. You don’t know if they are tearing up that house. The person has no responsibility and will not be held responsible for anything that occurs at that house.”

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com

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