The voices of Urban Institute's researchers and staff
October 5, 2015

Using evidence to help Detroit tackle its housing recovery challenges

October 2, 2015

Detroit’s fiscal crisis and renewal has attracted an immense amount of attention over the past several years. Federal resources, philanthropic heavyweights, entrepreneurs, and a flurry of influential Detroit expats have flocked to the city to be part of its renaissance. Every visit I’ve made this year confirms how dynamic and rich with opportunity Detroit is these days. 

Yet the city also faces very real challenges: population decline, fiscal insecurity, a weak housing market, and blight. The scale of these challenges is daunting, even though the city has rallied from the brink of bankruptcy and its leadership is highly engaged and focused. How do we harness the evident energy and national interest in Detroit’s future to ensure the city not only recovers, but is transformed into a place where every resident can thrive?

Today, as part of our ongoing work related to Detroit’s recovery, we are releasing a new market analysis and blog post about the city’s housing market. 

Detroit faces a number of obstacles in stabilizing and restoring a healthy housing market. With only a handful of residential mortgages recorded in each of the past several years, homeowner financing for purchase or rehabilitation remains scarce.

At the same time, quality affordable rental housing is also in short supply, as demand has increased with the influx of new employees wanting to reside in or near the urban core. The new analysis and documentation of local efforts we are launching today aims to shed light on these issues and spotlight innovations and potential solutions as the city charts a path toward less blight, increased housing preservation, and a better functioning residential mortgage market.

As Detroit faces immense challenges and public, private, and philanthropic actors are converging locally to assist in its revitalization, the city has become a hotbed for cross-sector urban innovation. Our Detroit Housing Tracker aims to capture and help stakeholders digest the ongoing developments in the city. The tracker analyzes Detroit housing market activity and data, and monitors new mortgage and homeowner products.     

In our blog post, “Rehabbed and ready,” we highlight an innovative program designed to address the problem of low appraisals, one of the biggest impediments to the recovery of Detroit’s for-sale housing market. Low appraisals make it very challenging to get adequate sales comparisons and for potential homeowners to purchase and rehab homes in Detroit with the mortgage products available.

We are also engaging with national and local experts to provide further insights into the challenges and progress underway in Detroit. Today we are launching a policy debate to add these voices to the conversation around stabilizing the city’s housing market and ensuring affordable housing options for homeowners and renters alike.

This portfolio of work, which is part of our collaboration with JPMorgan Chase, reflects the Urban Institute’s broader commitment to further engage with state and local actors on the social and economic challenges they face. Communities need solutions that align with their unique strengths and challenges. We are committed to helping build the evidence base around these challenges and potential solutions in order to bolster local revitalization efforts.

A house in the Indian Village area of Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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As an organization, the Urban Institute does not take positions on issues. Experts are independent and empowered to share their evidence-based views and recommendations shaped by research.