The Detroit housing market has grown exponentially with African Americans in the city and region, indicating a turnaround from the days when it was forced into the largest-ever municipal bankruptcy.
According to the Detroit Free Press, between 2012 and 2021, prospective Black homebuyer mortgage applications jumped 443 percent. The data, collected in a report by local policy Think Tank Detroit Future City, also shows Black residents applied for 159 percent more houses in the suburbs.
“The increase in applications in Detroit is in part reflective of recent investments in neighborhoods and homebuyer initiatives following the City of Detroit’s 2013 bankruptcy,” the report reads. The most substantial jump in applications – 41 percent – was with Black homebuyers who earn less than $50,000 per year.
“Even with the increases, demand for mortgages in Detroit makes up a small portion of the demand for mortgages from Black homebuyers regionwide,” the report also states. “In the region, only 1 in 5 mortgage applications by a Black homebuyer is made within Detroit. This is a clear indication that there is still much work to be done to increase homeownership demand in Detroit and create quality neighborhoods that will retain and attract middle-class households, and Black middle-class households, in particular.”
According to local newsweekly The Metro Times, Black residents are continuing to leave the Motor City in mass numbers.
Since 2000, more than 295,000 Black residents have left Detroit which is more than any other American city. According to the study, only one in five mortgage applications by Black home buyers were made in the Detroit region. The suburban cities of Eastpointe, Warren, Clinton Township, and Romulus, have been go-to destinations for prospective homeowners. During the same period, Detroit has lost 37.4 percent of its Black population. Now, Gary, Ind., and Jackson, Miss., have larger percentages of Black residents than Detroit.
“Even though there has been a substantial increase in demand for homeownership in Detroit, this demand remains modest, especially relative to the size of the city,” the study read. “There is continued work needed to create desirable housing options for residents at all stages of life and price points.”
While Black flight is a recurring issue in the Detroit housing market, housing discrimination remains a barrier for prospective Black homeowners. According to a previous report by Detroit Future City, “Black Detroiters, regardless of their income level, were twice as likely to be denied a mortgage as white applicants.”
Black flight was not helped in 2013 when city managers decided to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy as a result of Detroit’s extreme fiscal crisis. The city’s debt stood as high as $20 billion and it depended on bonds to pay its employees.
It was the largest municipal bankruptcy in American history and left the city’s future uncertain. It was just another bruise in a city that once boasted nearly 2 million people, but currently stands at 632,000. However, steady interest in ground-floor investing has rekindled a new day in the city. Even still, Detroit continues to experience an uphill climb.
Anika Goss, president and CEO of Detroit Future City, said that the city must view Black flight and housing discrimination as top priorities.
“Last fall, DFC announced an ambitious eight-year plan to increase the city’s Black middle class and other communities of color,” Goss told The Metro Times. “We have clearly gained some ground in the last decade, but even with the increase in middle-class borrowers, disparities in mortgage originations continue to persist. African Americans make up 77 percent of Detroit's population and are denied home purchase loans at two times the rate as white applicants. It’s not until we solve for this issue, that we can equitably rebuild the homeownership in the city.”
Detroit Future City also noted that investments should be made to meet the demand for mortgages which would have a positive impact on the city’s neighborhoods.
“These investments could include implementing strategies that support comprehensive community development efforts, improving housing stock, increasing neighborhood amenities, and marketing neighborhoods to future homeowners,” the study states.
In 2010, Detroit had the highest percentage of Black residents in the country at 82.2 percent. Today, the number of Black residents has fallen to 72.2 percent and the Black middle class has been shrinking rapidly in Detroit. Per the report, the strength of the Black middle class equates to the strength of the city.
“Creating strong middle-class neighborhoods that can both retain existing residents and attract new ones is critical for putting Detroit on the path to returning to its status as a middle-class city,” the study concluded.
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