Foreclosures helping change color of some suburbs

Associated Press | 3/1/2011, 7:05 p.m.

Southfield officials say one solution to changing neighborhoods is blight enforcement, other ordinances and costly fines. The idea, said the police chief, Thomas, is not to chase people away, but to help them assimilate.

Soon after Grace, the telephone company analyst, moved into his house, he was cited for parking a small trailer on the property and storing interior doors outside. These are things that would have drawn little notice in Detroit amid the crime and failing schools, he said.

He paid $400 in fines, got rid of the doors and put the trailer in paid storage.

Eugene Williams found a foreclosure steal in one of Southfield’s many well-kempt and stable neighborhoods. Williams, like Grace, wanted to get away from Detroit.

“The kids are running around without any control,” says Williams, a 56-year-old auto plant worker. “They walk down the middle of the street and block traffic. There was gunfire at night. It was a common thing to hear gunfire.”

But the transition to life in the suburbs hasn’t been easy. As he was making improvements indoors, Southfield ordinance officials were writing citations outside. He was fined $200 for noxious weeds because the grass was too high and dandelions covered much of the front lawn.

“It wouldn’t happen in Detroit,” he says. “Your property is pretty much your property. I think, here, they are going a little overboard.”

Associated Press