Massive Detroit Foreclosures Push Out Black Homeowners

A Detroit reborn sounds great, but what if the residents of “blighted” areas don’t want to leave? Many feel they have no choice in a process that has been compared to racial relocation. Meanwhile, activists scramble to give residents options.
October 24, 2014, 7am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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“In a city supposedly trying to attract residents rather than lose them, […] a potential 142,000 Detroiters—one-fifth of the city’s population—will be shown the door within the next year and a half.” Primarily delinquent taxpayers, these people are also overwhelmingly African-American. Many observers see this rash of foreclosures as part of a "familiar pattern" of racially-tinged development policy.

City officials justify the mass auction as part of Detroit’s rebirth, saying home-ownership shouldn’t be taken for granted. Affected residents disagree with characterizations of their neighborhoods as blight. Said one long-time homeowner: “This may look like a third-world country, but we’re a tight-knit community.”

In an environment rife with land speculation, predatory lending, and misinformation, some options remain for the homeowners. From the article: “Perhaps because so many believe that poor people are ill-equipped to be homeowners, very few people losing their homes to foreclosure have been informed that they can re-buy their homes.” In the current market, prices to do so are vanishingly low. As a result, organizations like the United Community Housing Coalition are working to provide affected residents information and aid.

The Detroit Future City plan calls for steady depopulation followed by new projects to get the city back on its feet. To many, this sounds like eminent domain without proper compensation. The debate remains: is this a solution for Detroit, or a modern equivalent of forced relocation by race?

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Published on Wednesday, October 22, 2014 in The Atlantic
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