Empty places: It’s not squatting…it’s blotting
The Changing Gears project is looking at the challenges of the region’s empty places this month. For many people, the most threatening emptiness isn’t a shuttered factory: It’s the abandoned property next door. But in Detroit, some residents are using that emptiness to quietly reshape their neighborhoods. They’re annexing vacant lots around them, buying them when they can or just putting up a fence.
But as Kate Davidson reports, they’re not squatters…they’re blotters.
Blot isn’t a bad word. A design firm coined the term several years ago. Academia ran with it.
“Blots are properties between the size of an entire block and just a lot. So, they are consolidations of multiple lots,” says Margaret Dewar, a professor of urban and regional planning at the University of Michigan who’s mapped blots.
So, families are creating compounds of multiple lots. Big deal, right? Well, keep in mind Detroit was built tightly packed with working class homes. It sliced up blocks with a very quick knife. So as the city lost 60 percent of its population, it left these gaping holes in the genetic makeup of neighborhoods. Blotters aren’t waiting for the city to fix that.
To be clear, Detroit, Cleveland, Chicago, even post-Katrina New Orleans all have adjacent lot programs on the books already. In Cleveland, a homeowner can buy the lot next door for as little as a dollar. In Detroit, two hundred dollars. Chicago, a thousand.You know it seems that this is something that should be tried in some of Chicago's depressed neighborhoods. It probably has been anyway.
Rob Anderson says, most importantly, when a homeowner buys the lot next door, they’re taking responsibility for the neighborhood. They’re also putting land back on the tax rolls.
“Then that’s one parcel that we can rely on a citizen to take care of that the city really can’t afford to take care of,” he says.
It mirrors what was mentioned at the ward remap hearing I attended at South Shore High School. Mainly that an individual bought significant plot of land and merely interviewed people before they sold a particular plot of land. In this case since most of the 6th Ward is built up the community could buy the house then interview people before they sold the house.