In Detroit, a Resident Laments the Rash of Abandoned Homes

Carol Sinclair is troubled by the fact that she and another neighbor are now the only inhabitants on her block on Detroit's east side.

Posted: 04/29/2013 11:22 AM EDT
In Detroit, a Resident Laments the Rash of Abandoned Homes

When Carol Sinclair moved into her home 23 years ago, she was part of a sizable collection of neighbors on her residential block on Detroit’s east side. But over the years, many have moved, leaving her as only one of two residents on a block now filled with nearly a dozen abandoned homes.

“When I first moved here, I had a neighbor on one side of me and several across the street,” said Sinclair, who is retired from a career working for the city of Detroit. “But now, nearly all the homes on my street are abandoned. I am a person who likes quiet. But this is not what I had hoped for.”

Her situation is far from uncommon. Detroit is a city with an estimated 90,000 abandoned buildings. It is a city whose population reached nearly 2 million residents in 1950 and is now home to barely 700,000 people. As a result, there are wide swaths of abandoned buildings in many of the city’s neighborhoods, from private homes to once-grand offices and city landmarks.

For example, the Michigan Central Station, once the tallest rail station in the world, remains idle and abandoned. The same is true for the old United Artists Theater Auditorium and several once-prominent churches.

With a diminished tax base and no buyers for unoccupied homes, there are many blocks, like the one where Sinclair lives, where there are only one or two homes that are inhabited.

She said that, though she is meticulous about tending to her yard and the sidewalk in front of her home, so many of the neighboring homes are eyesores, making it difficult to feel pride in her block.

“Sometimes, I feel like I have to be responsible for the upkeep of the entire block,” Sinclair said, in an interview with BET.com

“I would like it if there were some good neighbors who would move into the block,” Sinclair said. “It would be nice if this block were to become a little more stable. It would make things a whole lot better. But I don’t feel that will happen any time soon. I’m not optimistic.”

The city’s trouble with abandoned buildings is particularly pronounced in the various residential neighborhoods of Detroit. In many cases, abandoned homes are magnets for squatters and even criminal activity. In addition, the vacant homes are often the victim of arson.

It is a living situation that is often fraught with tension, many Detroit residents say, adding that they often feel a level of fear living in blocks with few inhabited homes.

“Sometimes, I feel like throwing in the towel and moving,” she said. “I often think about moving. I don’t know what I will do. But, for now, I don’t see any hope for a comeback.”


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(Photo: Courtesy of John Collins, ChasePhotog)

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