Buying a $500 House in Detroit

HomepageDrew Philp at The Guardian:

I was just finishing what was likely the final mowing of my lawn, just before the winter came. As I looked up, I noticed my neighbor was sitting in his truck across the road, watching me as he smoked a cigarette. Just a few years earlier, at age 23, I had purchased an abandoned house in Detroit from a live auction for $500, less than the price of a decent television. It had been empty for more than a decade and was still a shell, its bones exposed, anything of value stolen long ago.

The structure was filled with trash and had lived a hard life: two monstrous stories of no doors or windows, plumbing, or electricity – nothing. The backyard was a literal jungle, the porch needed to be ripped off and done again, the front yard looked like it wanted to be cut with a scythe. When I bought it in 2009, a white kid in Detroit was strange. Most people, white and black, were moving out. By this time I’d been working on the house for five years. I’d removed the trash – nearly ten thousand pounds of it – added windows and electricity and all the other accoutrements, and had begun to carefully insert myself into the chorus of Detroit among my neighbors. Both my house, and the neighborhood, were starting to feel like home.

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