University of Michigan researcher Margaret Dewar has been studying and mapping the Detroit neighborhood of Brightmoor, which is the subject of an article by Emily Badger in The Atlantic Cities this week.
"The Case for (Selective) Squatting" presents an interesting picture of renewal.
In the 1920s, rustic frame houses were built for Appalachian migrants so desperate for work that they would leave the beautiful mountains to live in them and search for work in industry. These were substandard houses because that's what the developers thought Appalachian people could handle.
Ms. Badger writes: "Many of them were originally built in the 1920s as wooden houses on wooden platforms, first constructed without heating or plumbing."
She writes: "Today, 40 percent of the lots in the neighborhood are vacant. And this reality – a common one in what Dewar and June Manning Thomas describe in their book 'The City After Abandonment' – has given way to a curious trend: Remaining homeowners here are taking over this land."
Making a case for a certain kind of squatting, the article shows that people in the neighborhood have used the vacant lots to expand yards and gardens.
Pittsburgh has less vacant land than Detroit, but we have our fair share. Squatting as renewal would be an interesting story to tell here.