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Detroit neighborhoods struggle with squatters

flickr user Detroit1701

City officials have confirmed what residents in many Detroit neighborhoods have said for several years: squatting is on the rise.

Detroit has more than 100,000 vacant properties. And with the foreclosure crisis, even the city’s most stable neighborhoods are dealing with squatters.

Michael Brady is with Community Legal Resources, a group that has helped neighborhood groups deal with vacant property issues in Detroit.

Brady says squatting isa tricky legal issue, because of built-in protections to prevent people from abusing the law.

“There’s always a concern to make sure that the legal rights to get rid of squatters and whatnot are being used judiciously and actually in a way to ensure they’re actually being used against squatters, and not against two neighbors who may not like each other.”

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says he understands the concerns, but the law makes it hard to get rid of squatters once they’ve moved in.

“They have certain rights also, so you just can’t go in there and physically throw them out. I know there are lot neighbors in certain neighborhoods that would like for us to do that, but it’s against the law and we’re not going to break the law.”

Experts say the problem is made worse by declining public resources. That means fewer vacant houses are secured, and police are stretched too thin to really address the problem.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public 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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