Hamtramck is starting the New Year with a bang.
Last week, Hamtramck learned it will receive $13.9 million in federal stimulus money to build or rehab 39 housing units.
The city is obligated to find a way to provide 39 more housing units to finish off a 40-year-old housing discrimination lawsuit. Once these units are completed, the city will finally be released from its obligation.
Over the past several years the city has built almost 200 housing units, thanks largely to a mix of county, state and federal housing grants.
Of course, the circumstances of providing the housing units is horrible, but the upside is for the first time in decades new housing has been built.
The new housing also allows Hamtramck to put an ugly piece of history to rest and to allow the wounds from that incident to finally heal. Some 40 years ago, city officials purposely targeted a largely African-American neighborhood for housing demolition.
City officials back then sugarcoated the demo by saying it was part what was then referred to as “urban renewal.” The black families saw through the ruse and sued the city.
What followed next was a travesty of justice. The lawsuit languished for the first 35 years as plaintiffs and the city bickered over housing plans and financing. Or should we say the attorneys involved in the case allowed this case to go on and on while they collected fat paychecks.
Unfortunately for the original plaintiffs, most of them are now deceased or long gone. The only ones left are their children and grandchildren.
Yes, this was a tragic case of justice delayed, justice denied. But in the end, the city received new housing units and an influx of new residents. Let’s now build on a new legacy, one where we support and nourish residents, not chase them away.