This Monday Hamtramck will celebrate a historic milestone.
Not only is it Martin Luther King Jr. Day, it’s the 40th anniversary of a settlement deal between the city and a group of African-American residents whose houses were targeted long ago in the 1960s for demolition under the guise of “urban renewal.”
It sounds funny to call it a celebration, but a celebration it is because justice – although delayed – triumphed. And it is no coincidence that it is being held on Martin Luther King Day.
The celebration will be held at Corinthian Baptist Church and will feature the federal judge who has overseen the case, Judge Damon Keith, and Gov. Jennifer Granholm. A number of other dignitaries will also be on hand as well.
Coincidentally, at this past Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Hamtramck leaped another hurdle to finally shut the door on the lawsuit by signing on to another round of new housing units for the plaintiffs who long ago suffered the indignity of being forced out of Hamtramck just because they were black.
On Tuesday, the council agreed to a plan where the state and the county will build 65 housing units for the plaintiffs in a mix of properties for sale or for rent in newly built or remodeled houses.
That may sound confusing but it comes down to a win for the plaintiffs and a huge win for the city because we will be getting new residents and new housing. More people and more housing means more tax dollars and a stronger community.
It’s weird to say, but as bad as it was for those folks who were forced out of the city, Hamtramck now gets to reap the rewards of new housing and new residents.
All that is left in what’s referred to as the “R-31” housing lawsuit is for the city to secure federal stimulus money – which it should have found out by the time we went to press on Thursday – to build or rehab the final 60 housing units.
It’s a shame – and maybe Hamtramck’s hard luck – that the new housing comes at a time when the housing market everywhere is in the dumps. But at the very least, we have new housing available at subsidized costs for those who qualify and we will have finally closed the door on an ugly episode from long ago.
Never has a lawsuit settlement tasted so sweet.