Sharon McClinton cares for the vacant land around her house. Detroit is trying to make it easier for residents like her to buy that land, too.
Apparently, the phone has been ringing off the hook over at Detroit’s planning department. It’s all because of a few lines uttered by Mayor Dave Bing in his State of the City address last week. (You’ll find them about 30 minutes in.)
“This week we sent out over 500 letters to property owners in Hubbard Farms, Springwells Village and Southwest Detroit,” he announced, “telling them if they own a home adjacent to a vacant city-owned lot, they can purchase this lot for a mere $200.”
“No coming downtown,” the mayor said. “No added bureaucracy. The city will mail back the deed.”
The initiative is a response to the overwhelming problem of abandoned property in Detroit. It’s a problem we explored in our stories about Detroit “blotters” — which you can see here and here.
Blotting describes what happens when homeowners annex the vacant lot, or lots, next door. They create expanded properties, between the size of a lot and a city block. Sometimes, residents can purchase these side lots. Often, they’re constrained by bureaucracy or money, so they may just throw up a fence to ward off the dangers of abandonment. Continue reading
Earlier this month, Changing Gears’ Kate Davidson told us about blotting – a practice in Detroit and elsewhere in which home owners are taking over vacant lots and improving their blocks.
Now there’s evidence that sprucing up vacant lots can have a measurable effect on reducing crime.
According to The Atlantic Cities, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania studied a 10-year project in Philadelphia to convert vacant lots into park space. They found that gun-related assaults significantly declined in areas around the lots that had been greened. Vandalism and criminal mischief also significantly fell off. Continue reading
"Blotters" are turning Detroit's empty spaces into family compounds.
DETROIT — Our Changing Gears project is looking at the challenges of the region’s empty places this month. For many people, the most threatening emptiness isn’t a shuttered factory. It’s the abandoned property next door. But in Detroit, some residents are using that emptiness to quietly reshape their neighborhoods. They’re annexing vacant lots around them, buying them when they can or just putting up a fence.
They’re not squatters … they’re blotters.
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