By Charles Sercombe
Hamtramck’s seemingly never-ending housing discrimination lawsuit is coming close to an end.
The city is about to break ground for the last three housing units to satisfy a settlement agreement for the 40-something-year-old lawsuit.
The lawsuit was filed after city officials in the 1960s targeted largely African-American neighborhoods for demolition under the guise of what was then called “urban renewal.”
Critics of the plan called it “negro removal.”
After many twists and turns, the city agreed to build 200 housing units and help the 500 plaintiffs who filed a class action lawsuit with financing to purchase the units.
Several years ago, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held, with the legendary presiding federal Judge Damon Keith doing the honors.
Judge Keith, an African-American civil rights hero, admitted that the length of the lawsuit was a classic case of “justice delayed, is justice denied.”
For most of the plaintiffs, that was true. Most of them had died by that time, but their children and relatives are now eligible to take their place.
Judge Keith handed over the case to another judge about a year ago and died last April at the age of 96.
There was only one problem with that ribbon-cutting celebration.
Someone incorrectly counted the number of units that had been built. The city was still three houses short, the plaintiffs’ attorney pointed out.
The court ordered a special tax on the city’s property taxes, and the city also received $300,000 from a federal program called the Neighborhood Stabilization Program.
With a total of $600,000 to use, the city expects to break ground on the final three houses this fall – or next spring.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, the council agreed to purchase three lots for $1 each from the Michigan Land Bank.
The houses will be located at 12085 Gallagher St., 5048 Prescott St. and 5191 Yemans St.
And once they are built, perhaps the final ribbon-cutting celebration will take place.
Aug. 16, 2019