When governmental action makes a home unlivable, the government ought to buy the home.
That happened in community after community in the past century when a freeway came through or when an urban renewal project demolished dilapidated homes.
Detroit officials are beginning to take a different kind of action, but with a similar impact. The city is going ahead with a plan to reduce or withdraw municipal services in neighborhoods where most homes have disappeared.
That makes sense in the impoverished city. In a war against the powerful forces of blight, crime and flight, it makes sense to pull back to defensible areas, where housing and neighborhoods are still in good shape.
But what about those residents who are still left in neighborhoods well on their way to becoming urban farms?
In a recent newspaper article, a 75-year-old woman on Detroit's near east side, living on her Social Security payment, described how her home insurance is increasing.
She can't find other insurance at a cost she can afford.
She can't get a bank loan to replace windows.
Outside the house, streetlights don't work.
There's no nearby grocery.
There are just a few homes left on her block.
Her next-door neighbor finally moved after consecutive break-ins.
Programs that might have helped pay for fixing up her home — they're typically targeted at low and moderate income owners — are no longer available in her neighborhood because it's considered distressed.
Apparently that means too distressed to pour any more money into.
She thinks her home is worth $7,000. She says she won't let it go for that.
City officials apparently haven't figured out what to do with property owners in this woman's situation.
And certainly the city is between a rock and a hard place.
It's pulling back services because it can't afford to provide them with current revenues.
One official said the city is considering senior housing for some residents still in their own homes.
That's not viable for this woman.
She's raised a grandson who still lives with her and is going to college.
He needs a place to stay.
We don't know how this story, applicable to many other people in Detroit, will turn out.
But it's unjust to force out, without compensation, people whose presence has maintained a community just because they're the last ones left.
The Oakland Press