O’HAIR PARK CAMPAIGN
In the spring of 2017, Detroit Eviction Defense (DED) and Urban Praxis Workshop partnered with the O’Hair Park Neighborhood Association (OPNA) to organize residents at-risk of eviction in speculator owned housing. The campaign paired DED and OPNA members with volunteers from the UAW and Urban and Regional Studies students at UM-Dearborn going door-to-door to talk to residents facing potential foreclosure or eviction. The campaign culminated in an organizing meeting and legal clinic attended by nearly 40 residents in tenuous housing conditions.
Through a series of community meetings with OPNA and DED, the Urban Praxis Workshop identified at-risk addresses using speculator data from Property Praxis and Wayne County Tax Foreclosure information. These maps were augmented and refined by O’Hair Park Block Captains. The result was a coordinated list of 200 occupied homes at high risk for eviction or foreclosure.
CONTESTING ECONOMIES OF DISPLACEMENT AND DISPOSSESSION
There is a housing crisis in the city of Detroit. This has quickened over the past decade. What emerged in the aftermath of the financial crisis is an economy of displacement and dispossession clawing away the homes and livelihoods of poor and lower-middle-class residents. It is steeped in racial and class division enabled by a state and municipal approach intent on dispersing rather than alleviating poverty through increased tax foreclosure aided by inflated assessments and systemic denial of the state poverty tax exemption, targeted residential water shutoffs and mass school closures.
THE ACTUALLY EXISTING MARKETS OF SHRINKING CITIES
In the late 1990s, the state of Michigan bet on markets and urban pioneers to reinvigorate its struggling cities. The Michigan Urban Homesteading Act was an effort championed by Republican governor John Engler and state senator Bill Schuette, as a market solution to urban decline. One of its bills, the acceleration of tax foreclosure and the auctioning of foreclosed property, has had a lasting effect, damaging neighborhoods and communities in cities like Detroit and Flint through foreclosure and eviction.
INSTRUMENTAL EXPLOITATION: PREDATORY PROPERTY RELATIONS AT CITY’S END
In the years since the financial crisis, low-income housing markets are increasingly dominated by speculative bulk ownership and eviction. These intertwined trends reflect both economic transitions in these markets and the racial-spatial reordering of US cities. In this paper we draw on the case of Detroit to tie bulk foreclosure sales to the rising rates of eviction and patterns of dispossession in the decade that followed. These markets are now dominated by speculative bulk buyers, exploitative contract selling, and eviction. We situate this transition within strategies of accumulation by dispossession and the economic logics of expulsion. We utilize multiple property data sets, court records, participant observation, and interviews to demonstrate the link between foreclosure markets, speculative purchasing, contract sales, and subsequent evictions. We situate these finding within the longer history of racial housing exploitation in US cities and argue the outcomes of displacement and dispossession in the complex chains of relations between finance, speculation, and the state do not land in an arbitrary manner, but are tethered to the past and present racial-spatial ordering of US cities.
Josh Akers and Eric Seymour (Forthcoming) Geoforum
A NEW URBAN MEDICINE SHOW: ON THE LIMITS OF BLIGHT REMEDIATION
In this chapter, Joshua Akers examines the contemporary practice of blight removal, which he situates in a long line of policies that employ demolition and displacement in urban space. Akers focuses specifically on the role of the private sector in both the production of blight and in blight remediation. Central to his work is the idea that blight is an active, rather than a passive process. This chapter focuses on the way in which mortgage foreclosures and tax foreclosures are part of the active production of blight. He specifically examines the role of speculation in the tax foreclosure auction process developing four typologies of speculation on Detroit’s foreclosed properties. He questions official reports that tens of thousands of solid homes and buildings somehow ‘morphed’ into ugly blight, and articulates the counter narrative that blight is rooted in how social relations (economic, racial, political) manifest themselves in property and the built environment. Enacting the analogy of an American medicine show, blight removal treats the symptoms, rather than addressing its root causes.