My Detroit: $1 Homes and the Flight of the Dead

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The tale of homes selling for less than $100 in Detroit isn’t so new, but some of the facts of this story should raise a few eyebrows. Not only did the house in question sell for $60k less than two years ago – in a neighborhood that cannot possibly attract those prices without the help of a committed credit giveaway – but also, it was obviously purchased by some no-hoper who benefited from the “have-pulse-will-loan” mentality and a -0- down mortgage, which made it entirely easy for that person to walk away when it became convenient. The facts are chilling, but typical of Detroit:

The company hired to manage the home and sell it, the Bearing Group, boarded up the home only to find the boards stolen and used to board up another abandoned home nearby.

Scrappers tore out the copper plumbing, the furnace and the light fixtures, taking everything of value, including the kitchen sink.

…Doors leading into the kitchen and the basement were missing, and the front windows had been smashed. Weeds grew chest-high, and charred remains marked a spot where the garage recently burned.

…While selling a home for the amount of change most people could find between their couch cushions is unusual, some abandoned homes in Detroit sell for $100; vacant lots can be purchased for $300.

Notice that the media has taken to calling the mess created by the Fed a “foreclosure crisis.” That is a much more convenient and malleable term than, say, “the destructive consequences of government-engineered financial socialism.”

Now on to the dead fleeing.I am very close to this story and its headline: “Flight of the dead: Suburban families move loved ones from Detroit cemeteries.” This is not the first time the media has reported that people who have flocked to the suburbs are only returning to dig up their loved ones and take them north of Eight Mile Road. Detroit has lost half of its population since the 1950s, and city records – now those must be accurate! – show that for every 30 people that have left the city between 2002 and 2007, one dead person follows. Dr. Stephen Vogel, dean of architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, who has conducted his own study on this, says this number is way too low.

The practice appears to be most common among families like the Imbrunones: former east side Catholic Detroiters who moved to Macomb County years ago, miles away from their dearly departed. The cemetery that appears to lose the most is Mount Olivet, located in the heart of the wild east side, with about 100 disinterments a year.

Now the DeCoster side of my family has a large plot at Mount Olivet, once a premier, Catholic-only cemetery in the city. Both of my parents were east side Catholic Detroiters who had precisely planned each plot, and who would be where. My Aunt no longer visits and gardens at the cemetery because of safety concerns. The cemetery has undertaken many security measures over the years to try and clamp down on the crime at the cemetery, but, in spite of that, the city itself does not beckon one to come down to that part of town. When my father passed away this year, he was the first DeCoster to not be buried at Mount Olivet. My mother will go the same way. Those plots will stay empty.

8:41 pm on August 13, 2008