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Detroit Residents Begging Squatters To Move in Next Door

detroitblightIn most cities, squatters are a nuisance at best, a danger at worst. But in one northwest Detroit neighborhood, residents are literally begging for squatters to come on by.

Detroit has struggled to combat the urban blight, crime, and arson associated with abandoned homes. When residents move away — or get evicted — it doesn’t take long until that old house is stripped to its bones and, in many cases, burned. When that happens, the property values of the entire neighborhood can decline, starting a feedback loop that’s hard to stop.

At Puritan and Hazelton along the Rouge River, neighbors are resorting to extreme measures. When some longtime homeowners moved away this September, nearby residents started recruiting a squatter to come and occupy the home. Already, 50 homes in the neighborhood are fire-damaged, with eight fires occurring in the last two years alone. Not only that, but one-third of the area homes are currently vacant.

“We want squatters. There’s so much abandonment here, we need them to turn the neighborhood around,” said Jennifer Mergos, co-founder of the Northwest Brightmoor Renaissance.

In a typical American household, the average homeowners will spend 1-4% of their income on home repairs and maintenance. But abandoned homes require far more costly repairs, and many end up demolished altogether. That’s why Mergos wants someone to set up residence in the latest empty house on the block, before it’s too late.

There’s just one problem — squatting is illegal in Michigan.

“The neighborhood is rallying around this house because it’s a tipping point to stop the continued destruction that’s happened around here,” said Mergos.

And for Mergos, the problem is personal. Her boyfriend purchased a land auction home in the area, but it was burned before they could move in. And in a city that’s seen one in three homes foreclosed since 2008, many residents see squatting as a desperate measure for desperate times.

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