Aug 15, 2022 - News

Renter advocates call for reforms in Detroit

Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson speaks at Spirit Plaza

Shawnita Sealy-Jefferson, associate professor of social edipemiology at Ohio State, speaks about her study to learn more about the housing experiences of Black women in Detroit. Photo: Sam Robinson/Axios

Community organizations supporting the rights of tenants want renters facing housing issues across the city to know they are not alone.

Driving the news: Renters, who make up the majority of households in Detroit, gathered at Spirit Plaza on Sunday to learn how to fight back against predatory landlords.

  • Speakers at the orientation called on Detroiters to organize within their housing communities to shift the power balance from owner to organizers.

What's happening: Wealthy investors pool capital to gobble up resources, Evan Villeneuve of Detroit Right to Counsel coalition, tells Axios.

  • "They're able to purchase properties above what the market rate is then pass the buck on to the renter by doubling your rent."

What they're saying: "We need to organize people house by house, block by block," says Lewis Bass, who serves as the Tenants Association secretary.

  • "Every day is a new uphill battle going through these situations," says Jai Kaiser, who's temporary living situation in a Southfield hotel as part of the city's "hoteling" program will become unclear next month.

What we're watching: Funding is still needed to secure legal representation for Detroiters facing eviction, Villeneuve tells Axios.

  • The city is mandated by Oct. 1 to set up an office for eviction defense. "As of now, that office has not been set up. We need (Mayor Mike Duggan) to act with a sense of urgency and we're not seeing that," Villeneuve says.
  • Villeneuve says he also hopes to see some form of rent control for the city, which has been prohibited by state law since 1988.
  • Recent legislative efforts to repeal the law have been unsuccessful.

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