Popularly known as the “Cabbage Patch,” the northwest sector of Grosse Pointe Park that borders Detroit would be the main beneficiary of a citywide tax increase proposal on the Nov. 7 ballot. If passed, the 20-year, .958-mill tax hike would allow the city to obtain about $7 million in bond money, some of which would fund a reduction in rental properties that city officials say have high vacancy rates and are hurting overall property values.
“We have too many rental properties in Grosse Pointe Park. Our landlords are having a hard time renting. We’re getting kind of a transient population coming in. Basically that’s why we’re doing it,” Councilmember James Robson says.
A mix of single-family homes and multi-unit rentals, the Cabbage Patch neighborhood is home to students, young professionals, longtime elderly residents, families and newcomers to the Pointes and the United States. The “Cabbage Patch” moniker describes how closely clustered together the dwellings are in the neighborhood in contrast to the rest of the Pointes, says Suzy Berschback, executive director of the Grosse Pointe Historical Society.
According to U.S. Census data, Cabbage Patch residents are younger and less likely to speak English at home than the rest of GPP. They also own and live in homes with lower median values, and make less money than others in the city. In 2000, rental property in the Cabbage Patch’s census tract accounted for 46 percent of housing units compared to 29 percent for the whole suburb. About 900 of the suburb’s 1,394 rental units were in the area, the data show.
City officials, at a public forum about the ballot issue last week, said if voters approve the measure, money would be used to remove diseased elm and ash trees throughout the suburb, provide more parking in the area, resurface the city’s streets, and purchase properties that would be resold to commercial developers who would install new businesses in the Mack-Alter and Jefferson-Alter areas. If the millage passes, it also would provide money to landlords to convert their multi-unit structures into single-family dwellings.
“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the renters. It’s just that we have so many rental dwellings in Grosse Pointe Park. This isn’t dissing the renters but rather emphasizing families moving in,” Robson says.
So let’s get this straight: There’s nothing wrong with renters, but the Park wants to pay to have fewer of them so that there’ll be more single family homes, even though owners of existing single family homes are having an increasingly hard time selling them as the southeast Michigan housing market plunges further into the toilet.
Can you say “double-talk”?
News Hits hears muttering by some Pointers who have begun calling the area “Grosse Pointe Dark” because of the perceived growing number of minority residents and comments blaming them for lowering property values and scaring away development. Fewer rental properties would mean fewer “undesirable” renters, hence the ballot proposal.
If that’s what city officials are really responding to, then this is a move that smacks of racism and classism.
So, do Grosse Pointe Park voters opt to approve a measure that does many good things overall, but also sends the message that it doesn’t really want those types (and you know who you are) moving there? That’s the decision they’ll soon be making.News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact the column at 313-202-8004 or NewsHits@metrotimes.com