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Detroit groups rally for more eviction protections, present demands to landlord

Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Update: 8:15 a.m. Friday, June 12: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is extending a ban on evictions through the rest of June for tenants and mobile home owners. The eviction ban was set to expire when Whitmer signed a new executive order expanding it until June 30.

Original post: Wednesday, June 10: A group of protesters caravanned through the streets of one Detroit neighborhood on Tuesday, demanding more relief for renters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The protesters called on Governor Gretchen Whitmer to extend the moratorium on evictionsthat's set to expire on Thursday. Whitmer has already extended it twice.

They also want Whitmer to continue the ban until at least 60 days after the state’s emergency declaration expires, to give tenants a chance to catch up on rent. And they want her to expand the moratorium to include foreclosures.

Advocates say Detroit and Michigan could face an unprecedented eviction crisis once the state ban expires, due to economic fallout from the pandemic.

Jerome Cullors is with the group Detroit Eviction Defense. He said concerns about an impending housing crisis are "not fake.”

“It is gonna get worse,” Cullors said. “As soon as they say ok, the cities are open again, they’re going to demand their money. We’re letting them know right now no, this is not going to happen this way.”

Members of the Villages Properties Tenants Union, on Detroit’s east side, also presented demands to their landlord, Alex DeCamp. They’ve been on a rent strike since May 1st. They want the landlord to recognize their union and grant them rent relief, among other demands.

DeCamp did not appear to be home at the time, and did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Some tenants and other neighborhood residents expressed concerns that DeCamp and others’ real estate investments have led to displacement and gentrification,and have failed to engage longtime residents in their plans.

Detroit, once a bastion of black home ownership, is now a majority-renter city. Advocates say that with eviction rates in the cityalready high, the city and state need to make a concerted effort to prevent a pandemic-related housing crisis. They’re also demanding that the city of Detroit make sure that federal CARES Act funds dedicated to housing stability are disbursed directly to tenants in need.

Tristan Taylor has been leading Detroit’s high-profile protests against police brutality. But he said issues of racial and economic injustice extend to many other realms, including housing.

“I think that time of people who are renters in the city of Detroit being treated like second-class citizens has to end,” Taylor said.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Radio in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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