With No Water or Heat, Detroit Corktown Tenants Forced to Move Before Holidays

November 17, 2021, 7:30 PM by  Allan Lengel

Victor Attar Apartments on Porter Street

All 17 tenants at the Victor Attar Apartments on Porter Street in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood are being forced to relocate because their water and heat have been off for about a week. Some residents accuse the owner of failing to make repairs to force out current residents to make way for higher-paying ones.

On Wednesday, the city's Buildings Safety, Engineering and Environmental Department (BSEED), issued an "intent to vacate order." Its says that "due to the lack of maintenance and unsafe living conditions" renters must leave by Monday, three days before Thanksgiving. It says the building will not be accessible to tenants until repairs are made to restore water and heat to all apartments and to an inoperable elevator in the four-story building at 1336 Porter St.

"We're helping relocate residents. We're very concerned about their well-being," said Georgette Johnson, press secretary for BSEED.  Some of the units are unoccupied.

Tenants like Barbara Green are among those who think the landlord wants them out so he can charge more rent in a neighborhood where property values are escalating. She says she's lived in a one-bedroom apartment for five years and paid her $515-a-month rent on time. Some tenants stopped paying rent during the pandemic, Green adds.

End run past eviction ban?

Barry Mitchell, a tenant who formerly owned the building, says the landlord is using this tactic because a judge has banned evictions until a court dispute over the property is resolved. "They decided to evict by shutting off everything," he said.

Building manager Ben Decker, who lives on the property, told Deadline Detroit over the weekend that management was aware of the situation and said some pipes had broken. Decker, who works with the City Investment Group on Cass Avenue in Detroit, did not return calls Wednesday after the city issued the vacate order.

Jessica Parker, chief enfocement officer for BSEED, says the owner has not responded to demands to correct the situation and has been cited with six violations, which carry a penalty of $4,000. New violations will be issued weekly until repairs are addresssed, she says. The owner could also subject to a civil misdemeanor charge. 

The city is working on relocation support through its Housing Revitalization Department the nonprofit United Community Housing Coalition.

Any tenant facing issues can report them online to BSEED or at (313) 628-2451. Those needing assistance from the housing coalition can call (313) 570-2451.

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