When Wendy Caldwell-Liddell took the mic at a public meeting last month on Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposed $250 million bond to eradicate blight, since rejected by City Council, she didn’t just voice her objections. Instead, she suggested a different way the city could spend $250 million to stabilize neighborhoods and improve residents’ living situations.
Caldwell-Liddell spoke about her difficulties navigating the rental market and finding stable housing, Outlier Media reported. Rather than just tearing houses down, she suggested a fund to bolster the city’s rental registration program. If landlords had access to grants or loans to make required improvements, it would make them more likely to comply and lead to safer, better housing for the city’s renters, who now number higher than homeowners.
The registration initiative was, by most measures, a failure in its first two-and-a-half years — fewer than 10,000 units are registered, out of an estimated 140,000. Landlords ignored the requirements, citing the cost of repairs, and the courts didn’t enforce the part of the program that was supposed to protect tenants: letting them hold their rent in escrow if landlords failed to get properties up to code. Instead, eviction proceedings were allowed to continue.
Now, the city is going back to the drawing board and using a grant to redesign the program with input from landlords and renters, Outlier and Curbed reported last month.
Caldwell-Liddell, who has multiple apartments in the last several years after she was blocked from getting a mortgage, suffered a miscarriage during a battle with over housing repairs that left her home with no water. She miscarried three weeks after her landlord disconnected service, when she was seven months pregnant, according to Outlier.
“We have experienced a lot of trauma as renters,” Caldwell-Liddell said. “There is just no other word for it.
“I am not interested in being a sob story,” she continued. “I want to help change this system, because this will continue happening to families all over the city as long as the system allows it.”
Read Caldwell-Lidell’s full story here. But before you go, her proposal has us wondering… if not for blight demolition, how could the city better spend $250 million? It’s not like there’s a nine-figure chunk of change sitting around in the general fund, but it’s still worthwhile (and fun) to try to envision alternatives that would improve quality of life for all Detroiters. Have an idea? Email me; we’ll share the best suggestions in the Detour newsletter (sign up here!). –Kate Abbey-Lambertz