Friday, August 30, 2013

We Almost Lost Detroit...this time

Today started off with me doing yard work. Weeds and things growing up against the fence can really be a pain in the ass. Even though I absolutely hate it, it simply has to be done. During the process, I see a woman pull up to one of the several abandoned houses on my block. The house used to be amazing. A cat I consider a brother and his family used to live there... and they took very good care of it. They moved and the next family that moved in didn't do such a good job of maintaining it. They moved and it's been empty every since. Well, empty in the sense that no one occupies it. But in my city (and perhaps many of your cities is well), you already know what people do to abandoned houses. They vandalize them, "squat" in them, sell drugs, etc. I guess that stuff is just common place. Anyway...
The lady I was talking about earlier came across the street to speak with me. She said she was in real estate. However, she was a little apprehensive about entering the house alone because it was clear someone had kicked in the door. I said I would enter the house with her (I kept the hedge clippers in my hand just in case an unwelcome guest was in there). We started in the basement. True to form, the hot water tank had been stolen and most of the furnace. I already knew that was the case. After all, that's a HUGE hustle in my hometown. Next...
We head in the kitchen. Cabinets... gone. Living room... nothing. We head upstairs where there's three bedrooms... nothing. Pretty much typical stuff, I guess. We leave out and begin to talk. She tells me the house is extremely inexpensive. In fact, it's listed under $10,000. My heart almost fell out of my chest. I immediately flashed back to how nice the home was when the cat I consider a brother and his family lived there. All the work they put in that house... and now it looks a shell of itself. That's the negative part about this story. But at the same time, there's a glimmer of hope that springs from this situation.
In my neighborhood and many others throughout the city, there's several abandoned houses listed at a similar price. I even saw a story online about an entire city block on sale for $260,000! Why is that good thing, you ask? Two reasons: Availability and low cost. Now do I have 10 g's that I can pull out my pocket RIGHT NOW and buy that house, let alone that block on the east side? No. But I'm sure I know several people that can and would. Question is, would they be willing to make the investment.
According to MSN Real Estate, CBS, and a few other sites I checked out, Detroit is by far the cheapest housing market in the industry. I understand that we were hit harder than everyone due to our dependence on the auto industry and had the highest unemployment rate in the country. Foreclosures also affected a lot of people. And then there's this little thing called reputation that Detroit had developed through the years. But screw all of that.. I see a much bigger picture.
Let me bring up these two points, again... availability and low cost. I can't think of better motivational factors to buy these houses. And not just houses. There's other property in the city that's on the market for cheap. In case you've been hiding under a rock or don't live here, Dan Gilbert has been on a buying spree the last few years all through downtown Detroit. That's been wonderful for the city because it's brought much needed employment and lots of pride to the city. Downtown will always find a way to prosper... but we gotta take care of the 'hood, now.
These abandoned houses that sit on these blocks don't have to remain that way. This is a prime opportunity for people to buy some of these houses, fix them up, and rent them out to low income residents. Or they can be turned into day care centers, small museums, party stores, retail shops, etc. Some of the empty lots can be turned into community gardens, parks, or paved for basketball or tennis courts. And if there's a block for sale, wouldn't it be cool if some of these athletes and entertainers that get on TV and tell us how much "Detroit pride" they have actually purchase it?
Yes, our city is in trouble. But it doesn't have to remain this way. Simple, sustainable solutions can be developed and implemented. Obviously, we need to be educated and informed about some things. And to help the community thrive (not survive... thrive) we need to help where and when we can help. That's our responsibility. And in my opinion, it's an even bigger responsibility for those that are wealthy. It seriously upsets me that so many wealthy people are stuck in this "all about me" persona. Donating to "charities" by writing a check and showing up for a photo op but not sticking around to see the actual development. Nothing but a fake PR move.
Ownership and building from within is important. Instead of waiting for developers from outside, let's take the initiative ourselves and keep what rightfully belongs to us. That includes you athletes and entertainers. If this is your city, do something about it... especially Black athletes and entertainers. I say that because as a young Black man (I still consider myself young, damnit), it makes me feel good to see people that are better off than me actually care about a cause. Not just buying shoes for all the kids on the block or giving away turkey's on Thanksgiving. Don't get me wrong, those are noble gestures and I don't knock them at all. But there's no greater feeling than owning something. It belongs to you. And Lord willing if you have a heart, you will share your gift with others. That's what people in a real community do. That's the only way we can continually grow. And that's the only way we won't lose Detroit... this time.