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As real estate market changes, some Detroit renters eye a tenants' union

Nov 24, 2014

A view of Midtown Detroit
Credit via Wayne State University

Some renters in and around downtown Detroit are exploring the idea of a tenants’ union.

A group of them met this past weekend to discuss the possibility.

Some renters in the city’s revived downtown and midtown areas worry that as the real estate market heats up, they’ll be pushed out by higher rents.

Tenants in subsidized housing are particularly concerned about being displaced for market-rate units.

People discussed their experiences with unexpected rent increases, unauthorized lockouts and evictions at Saturday’s meeting, as well as ongoing issues with living conditions such as lack of heat, hot water or basic safety.

Chris Alexander, who works with the group Detroit Eviction Defense, says the first step toward forming a potential area-wide coalition is for tenants to talk and connect with one another.

“Then people don’t feel as alone, and there might be a common, collective solving of problems,” Alexander says.

“It’s not something that you can just set up a meeting and impose something on people. There has to be an active participation of everybody involved.”