Monday, May 27, 2013

More Motor City Madness

Hello Again:

Today is the day for looking at the city of Detroit, Michigan.  In the previous post, we turned our attention to the enthusiastic support of gentrification by head of economic development George Jackson Jr.  He seemed to believe that gentrification was the answer to all of Detroit's problems.  What was lacking in his grand vision was a way to entice more affluent people to the downtown area.  He appeared to operate under the notion of "if you build it, they will come, in the meantime let's get rid of all the low-income seniors and residents, take down their buildings, and put up pretty shiny new apartments."  Now, I'd like to focus on one building that suffered so greatly from neglect that it effectively did the job of getting rid of the tenants without the owners having to serve eviction notices.  The building is the Regency Towers.

As your scratching your heads wondering how can neglect act as an eviction notice, let me attempt to explain.  There is this concept of "demolition by neglect."  This means that building owners sometimes let older buildings deteriorate so badly that it's simply not worth the effort to rehabilitate it.  If there are still tenants in the units, then they are forced to move out due to unsafe and unsanitary living conditions.  This is the case with the Regency Towers.  Is it legal?  It appears to be.  Do building owners get away with it?  Most of the time.  What happens to the tenants?  They either end up on the streets, with relatives, or in shelters.  Sad but true.  Let's start from the top.

Let's start at the top.  The problems at the Regency Towers began when Kohner Properites, a St. Louis, Missouri property management company, fired security in January.  Actually, I think the problems began long before that but were exacerbated when the building was acquired by an out of state owner.  Soon thieves began stealing catalytic converters in broad daylight.  Drug dealers and trouble makers were seen loitering around the lobby, pulling the alarms and stealing from residents.  When the residents begged the owners to do something, the response was, "we can't afford to."  This was despite the fact that company was accepting federal tax subsidies for low-income residents and people with disabilities.  In 2011, the company stopped paying its municipal taxes, which led to forfeiture in March of this year, according to Wayne County records.

Meanwhile, filthy conditions abound.  Garbage is left in heaps, chunks of raw meat is strewn about an unkept grass area, the is a bed bug infestation, and poor air quality.  While it's easy to dismiss it as poor housekeeping by the residents, which may be partly true, the management still has a legal obligation to maintain health, safety, and sanitation standards.  What has management's response to residents' complaints been?  A slammed door.  Repairs and housekeeping can't be done because the lone maintenance man has no supplies and the one cleaning person was let go.  In fact one tenant was quoted as saying he'd rather live on the streets then with the bed bugs.  This is what I mean by demolition and eviction by neglect.

Unfortunately, this goes on all the time.  What is the solution to this situation?  There really isn't one solution(s).  Even if the residents take the owners and landlords to court, it's time consuming and expensive.  I couldn't help noticing that the tenants in the Regency Towers and in the Henry Street Building, mentioned in the previous post, are predominantly African-American.  Even more interesting is that George Jackson Jr. is also African-American.  Word like "low-income, drug dealers," and "trouble makers" seem to be code words for people of color.  The stench of racism is pretty obvious.  We'll get back to the Motor City some more.  In the meantime, ponder at what price do you revive a city.

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