In a gentrifying Detroit, an uneasy migration of urban millennials

Detroiters like to toss numbers around, not necessarily as data, but more as signifiers. There’s “the 313,” the city distinguished from its suburban area codes. You used to be able to buy a T-shirt reading 713,777, Detroit’s population in the 2010 census. To this, add another:

The 7.2.

That’s shorthand for the 7.2 square miles of greater downtown Detroit, and encompasses freshly scrubbed neighborhoods in downtown, Corktown, Midtown, New Center, Woodbridge, Eastern Market, Lafayette Park and Rivertown. These are also the neighborhoods where rents are rising, new apartments are being built or renovated faster than you can say “subway tile backsplash,” and affluent muppies are outbidding their less-affluent peers for loft-style living space with river and skyline views.

Just a few years ago, many of these buildings were like thousands of others in the city – unused, shuttered, short of blighted but with blight perhaps on the horizon. Today, they’re home to the vanguard of the most-publicized urban migration in years, that of the young, moneyed and well-educated back into Detroit. At least, into these 7.2 square miles.

And tucked into those moving boxes, like Pandora’s mythical one, are either the evils of gentrification or its benefits. It all depends on your attitude.

Or, for that matter, your terms. Gentrification doesn’t have a hard-and-fast definition, but in general it describes the phenomenon of an urban neighborhood rising in desirability, attracting more affluent residents. Poorer, longtime residents may find themselves pushed out by such economic factors as rising taxes and rents, or wake up one day to find familiar storefronts transformed into an unwelcome warren of tapas bars and single-origin fair-trade coffee shops.

(For the uninitiated, Bridge created an interactive map of renos and hangouts that have sprung to life in recent years to house, feed and entertain newly urban residents.)

In Detroit, most casual observers would wonder what the problem is. The city has suffered for years from population loss and its related miseries, so any reversal, however small, can’t be bad, right?

That depends on whether you arrived two or 20 years ago, whether you’re one of “the blank-slate people” (those who move to Detroit and marvel over its possibilities with that expression, as though hundreds of thousands don’t already live there), or those who use charged terms like “colonization” (as if a young couple rejecting Oakland County is akin to plundering Africa’s gold trade). And yes, the racial subtext is real.

Atomized in Capitol Park

Lauren Hood is 42, African American and grew up middle class in Detroit but was educated at Detroit Country Day in Bloomfield Hills, and later at University of Detroit-Mercy. Today she works for Loveland Technologies, which performs mapping and data analysis on, and in, Detroit. Her background prepared her to move like a local through the various ecosystems that tend to crash into one another in the city – housing activists, nonprofit groups with improvement agendas, young immigrants, older long-termers, corporate interests and more. In this small town within a big city, she sometimes finds an “echo chamber, where I’m the only one of me — black, Detroiter.”

And as “a citizen of two nations,” she finds herself conflicted.

“Yes, we want new things to come, we want more resources for the city, but we want it for everybody,” Hood said. And to citizens of one nation, the other nation has rigged the game. Take the rent subsidies paid by some companies for employees who choose to live downtown or in Midtown. “Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out?” she said. “Why can’t they get something?”

Which brings the discussion to 1214 Griswold Street, a block where the changes sweeping through the 7.2 can be seen in one compact space. The conversion of the rent-subsidized Griswold Apartments overlooking downtown’s Capitol Park, once home to more than 100 low-income senior citizens, into market-rate apartments is the example of gentrification that comes up in conversations again and again.

Rechristened “The Albert,” after its architect, Albert Kahn, the new building was announced with a self-satisfied video from its developers, featuring young people proclaiming, “Detroit is my generation’s city.” As shots of the city’s attractions fly by, an unidentified voice enthuses over the “chevron-patterned, dark-wood flooring” and the kitchen’s “custom-made roll-away island,” while another says “there’s a reason everybody’s down here.”

Advocates for the building’s displaced poor, mostly African-American seniors howled in protest. The Curbed Detroit blog called the promo “unbearable.” The video was later trimmed of its most tone-deaf remarks, but the damage was done. Well, not all the damage: one guerilla videographer took the original promo and added heartbreaking interviews with the elderly tenants facing eviction. (A spokeswoman for developer Broder & Sachse declined to comment.)

Even though the original residents received relocation assistance through the Neighborhood Service Organization and were placed in other housing, Hood, for one, sees the event as a tragedy. “Moving is traumatic at any age, but having to leave as a senior citizen?” she said. “And what about the community they built there?” It was, in one fell swoop of capitalism, atomized, for people willing to pay over $2 per square foot of chic living space.

Change is inevitable

But what is the alternative? It’s the nature of every city to change, and most of Detroit’s change hasn’t been for the better. Are the residents of the old Griswold Apartments simply collateral damage?

“People want the community to improve, but the improvement will come with investment, and investment comes when people feel they can get a return,” said Austin Black II, a Realtor whose territory is Midtown and other parts of the 7.2. “That means buying buildings and charging rents to cover costs. The spinoff is more investment.”

At the moment, Black is showing off the sort of rehabbed loft space that makes urban-living aspirants drool. Located in the Willy’s Overland building just off Cass, its south-facing windows overlook the city’s skyline and 2,000 square feet flow in and out of an open floor plan. Closing was still a few days away, but it was pledged to a couple from Utah, who were moving their lives closer to their college-student daughter. The price was in the $400,000 range, and they were happy to pay it, Black said; after all, the same place in Chicago would be well over $1 million.

Even at these prices (most are lower), units were going quickly, Black said. Resale properties are sitting on the market for eight to 10 days. Asking-price deals are common. For an agent who survived the recession, happy days.

To Black, the calculus may make some uncomfortable, but facts are facts:

“In order for the city to thrive, it has to be a balance of incomes. We all agree these historic neighborhoods are beautiful and should be preserved, but the cost to maintain them is very expensive. So you have people who live here and can’t afford the upkeep, and the result is, the neighborhood will deteriorate. These houses were built for people with high incomes. It can cost $6,000 to rebuild a chimney.”

The market may be a cruel mistress, but it cannot be denied.

Jon Zemke is a freelance journalist and small-scale real-estate developer, buying, rehabbing and renting houses and small apartment buildings, mostly in the central city. To him, what’s happening is simply a correction to the ludicrously low rents of yesterday.

“I don’t think people are being uprooted from this city. Just because their downtown loft is starting to approach fair-market value when they were getting an amazing deal before doesn’t make it wrong,” he said. “If I see one more young white person on my Facebook complaining about gentrification, I will reach through the computer and smack them.”

Sleek loft conversions aren’t the only places to live, Zemke says, noting that being priced out of one area should be good for other neighborhoods, as the less-affluent push into less-trendy sections of the city.

Affordable options remain

Sue Mosey, president of Midtown Detroit Inc., a planning and development nonprofit, has worked on boosting Midtown since it was called the Cass Corridor and known for its squalor and prostitutes. She rejects the very idea that gentrification is going on, at least in Midtown, where her organization is acutely aware that diversity – of age, income, occupation and ethnicity – is both the neighborhood’s strength and selling point.

“There is affordable housing everywhere in Midtown,” she said. “Is the market-rate (housing) going up? Yes. But that’s going to happen.”

At the same time, “there has been a lot of substandard housing that isn’t safe, that people shouldn’t be living in, which has led to owners milking properties and not making improvements.” As the market improves, they will be prompted to invest or sell, she said.

“It’s a very complicated issue,” Mosey said. “We all want affordable, safe, nice and business. But you have to have an economic base to make a neighborhood work. You have to have a mix.”

Define your terms

Part of the confusion surrounding the topic in Detroit lies in its paradox: Don’t we want Detroit to get better, richer, more prosperous? Don’t we want people to be drawn back to the city, after decades of flight? If so, where are they supposed to live? No one has a clear answer. The city is full of empty and available housing, but much of it is undesirable because of its poor condition or location. The 7.2 square miles of the central city is, for better or worse, alive.

A 2013 research report by a Federal Reserve Bank economist defines a gentrifying neighborhood as one that goes from the bottom half of the distribution of home prices in the metropolitan area to the top half in a set time period. No less than 94 percent of Detroit’s housing lies in the bottom half, and only 3 percent actually gentrified in the 2000-2007 time period, the report said. Even before the housing crash, there was still enough affordable housing for anyone who wanted it.

And that was before the foreclosure crisis pushed longtime Detroit residents out of homes all over the city. It’s that raw wound – residents being evicted from housing that no one wanted to buy, at the same time newly urban professionals scooped up newly renovated properties – that rankles many.

Zoe Villegas, 26, is a student and housing activist who feels this acutely.

“Of course it’s good for a neighborhood to experience progress,” she said. “But we need a dialogue between people who are moving in, and people who’ve been there. ...The last couple of years, there have been some glaring contradictions. It manifests with social media, and with larger forums like Metro Times, illuminating homes that are available after foreclosure. I see a lot of people celebrating these foreclosures, without taking into account that people lived in these houses before.”

To Villegas, excitement over an improving Detroit would be easier to swallow if it were accompanied by concern over the residents who struggle to keep their homes. Some cities are taking steps to prevent displacement of longtime residents in gentrifying areas by, for instance, putting caps on property taxes, an issue that Mayor Mike Duggan vowed to also address.

“There’s a solution where people don’t have to be displaced,” Villegas said. “We can protect people from foreclosure to give them resources they need.”

Respect history

Change of any sort is upsetting, and easing the upset is something those behind downtown development should be thinking about, said Meagan Elliott, a planning consultant who has done work for the city and graduate student who has studied gentrification in Detroit and elsewhere.

“By most standard constructs, it’s not happening in the same way” as in other cities, Elliott said. She cites Chicago and Washington D.C. as places where neighborhoods were transformed, seemingly overnight. But in Detroit, the process is a trickle, not a flood: “(Gentrification) wouldn’t even constitute a drop in the bucket in terms of the stabilizing effects of the population loss. That’s why I’m so interested in how it happens in Detroit.” Because Detroit is evolving far more slowly, she said, there’s a chance to spot – and potentially correct – exclusionary practices before they happen.

Viewed most negatively, Elliott prefers the term “cultural displacement” to gentrification, believing it more accurately captures the phenomenon of what, exactly, happens when a neighborhood improves to the detriment of its long-term residents. She cites the way, for example, a new coffee shop might be remodeled to take advantage of architectural details like exposed brick and reclaimed wood, a look that telegraphs “expensive” to long-term residents who may not be familiar with a pourover and wonder why customers are staring at computers all day. To those residents, the arrival of such a business can be as bewildering as a party store with bulletproof glass plopped in a neighborhood in Bloomfield Hills. It’s subtle hostility in mercantile form.

“A lot of the people I talk with, at some point we talk about tensions being calcified over time” in certain neighborhoods, Elliott said. “When I ask them what can (new residents) do to soften them, one person said, ‘Have them take a test, like immigrants do.’ While that would never happen, it does speak to the need for newcomers to understand the city’s history, the neighborhood’s history, when they become a part of it.

“To come in without that context or understanding is one of the most damaging things that happens over and over again.”

Which is exactly what Joel Peterson is seeking to avoid with Trinosophes, his Gratiot Avenue cafe/performance space that opened last year. At first glance, it looks like the sort of new-Detroit cool spot that is pushing out the old, but Peterson said it’s anything but.

“We don’t want to identify as ‘new Detroit.’ We are old Detroit. (Trinosophes is) based on actual relationships, actually being part of the community. We’re not trying to think of how to bring in this or that demographic. We’re inclusive in everything we do.”

Peterson has lived in the city for 22 years, having moved in at age 20 after growing up in Grosse Pointe. He lived 12 years on the block that Trinosophes occupies in Eastern Market. Having paid his dues, he sees the neighborhood as a living thing, with a wide range of current and potential customers. So Trinosophes employs such practices as “caffé sospeso,” the Italian tradition of paying double for a cup of coffee or other drink, with the credit applied to a later, less-fortunate customer.

“In the recent past, relocating to Detroit carried with it a standard of behavior and a gradual and unheralded integration in the community. That’s what’s missing now,” he said. “I don’t see people taking the steps to truly embracing the community that’s always been here.”

Moving on

“Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out? Why can’t they get something?” – Detroit resident Lauren Hood, referencing the rent subsidies some companies offer employees to move downtown.

In the end, as the gentry move into a suddenly cool area, the cool people who blazed the trail may find new places to transform. Consider the path of Gabby Buckay, an artist who for 16 years lived in a sixth-floor walk-up loft in a graffiti-splashed building across Capitol Park from the Griswold Apartments-turned-Albert.

Her apartment, and her rent, were the stuff of legend – 2,500 square feet for $550 a month. Admittedly, it was a dump, so bad that Dan Gilbert, who bought the building last year, didn’t even have to evict the tenants – the fire marshal took care of it after an initial inspection.

“You could do anything there,” Buckay said. “You could have any kind of pet, do anything you wanted to do. There was this handyman who would smoke pot with people. It was very lax.”

Arriving in 1999, at just 20, she had a colorful, salad-days parade of neighbors – “regular guys, then junkies, then a guy who shot guns out the window, a Goth couple, lots of weirdos.”

In the past few years, it began to fill with other artists. When the fire marshal’s order came to vacate by the end of February, a cry went up on alternative media, but the deed was done. Buckay, for her part, was ready to get out.

“Living downtown was such a weird, bizarre experience. As it evolved, I liked it less. Tigers games would create traffic. I started having to pay $85 a month to park. It got exhausting. I liked my house, liked the space, but it ran its course.”

Buckay moved in with her boyfriend in a downmarket part of the east side, full of long-time residents too stubborn or poor to leave. And she likes it fine.

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Harry Palmer
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:31am
Regarding "the Albert', here's what could of (and should of) been done. Allow the seniors to live out their lives there, renovate what apartments are available at "market rate", eventually the building could set aside something like rent controlled units. This is what they do in New York. The developers shot themselves in the foot by treating the residents so tone deaf. Anytime I hear of someone saying they're moving into "the Albert" (and really. that's the best name you could have come up with? It even sounds annoying...) the first thing I think of, are the seniors that were kicked to the curb so callously.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 3:18pm
Harry, rent control is necessary in NYC and SF because they are finite geographic spaces (an island and a peninsula) that have hardly any affordable housing within their boundaries. This is not the case here. It's sad when anyone has to move when they don't want to. Many of my friends in SF, here, everywhere, regardless of age, have been forced to move due to affordability. This is just life. Sorry, but the investors have no obligation to subsidize these individuals. If they are poor, they are no doubt already government subsidized. They had to move. Not the end of the world.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 1:03pm
7.2 divided by 139 = 5.18%. Just give it a couple of years, get your car stolen once or twice, get your loft or apartment broken into, and see where it all goes.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 3:20pm
Willing to bet you don't live in the city. I do, and I haven't had the experience you seem to be alluding to.
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 10:29am
Willing to bet you park in a garage or behind a fence and have at least 2 locked doors between you and the street. Let's not let a few anecdotes of success blind us from the decades of data, Detroit is still a violent criminal city. That's why gentrification starts. There are plenty of suburban kids who want to feel edgy, don't need schools because they don't have kids and are willing to overpay (or their parents are) for housing. It only works if the revenue generated by having them there for the next 5 years is used to fix the city, not squander as Detroit's leadership is known to do. Eventually the herd migrates back to the burbs.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 6:10am
Well at least you realized that like yourself....they are simply a bunch of sheeple who can be herded around for shits and giggles.......led to believe anything......right or wrong, regardless to how it is manipulated. I've lived here for years and with few to no issues....I've also lived in the burbs.....being black...I encountered a few issues.....the data on the racism in the burbs is staggering......shows you savages still live in the past and have inferiority issues......But......At least you can see the man in the mirror for what he animal who can be herded back and forth who can also read and should win a prize.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:23pm
Nope. Park on the street, with a very nice car, in New Center, in a historic 4-unit building, next to some low income housing. Have yet to have any of the problems you outlined. Within a month of moving here, I had an unknown neighbor's kids deliver cookies to my door for the holidays. Almost to a man, people say "hi" as I walk down the street. Yes, my neighbor's car got stolen. Guess what? Lived in SF for 16 years and my friend's cars windows got smashed on a regular basis. It's called city living, it happens. And I'm not some suburban kid. I'm 43, and have lived in cities most of my life. After gentrification people always head back to the suburbs? Tell that to the Meatpacking district in NYC, SOMA in SF, or various other neighborhoods that were once undesirable. You need to expand your myopic vision. What once was will not always be. Is Detroit a troubled city? Yes. Does that mean it always will be? Hell no. I love living here and I see a bright future. Your outsider negativity won't stop that. Stay out in whatever boring burb you live in, or, better yet, lose the Debbie Downer mentality and see what promise this place has.
Connie Glave
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 3:22pm
This is an opportunity for a major city to reshape into a diverse community that maintains low cost options for those who live there now while encouraging development for those who can afford to move in. Where we have seen a displacement of minorities in other cities by affluent families who left the cities during the era of white flight, we have the potential to be a model of possibilities to heal racial divides.
David Zeman
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 4:17pm
Connie, thanks for the thoughtful comment. would love to zero in on cities that have established this balance and where longtime residents and bold developers are both happy (or, at least, satisfied) with the result.
Thu, 08/21/2014 - 8:16pm
Let us not forget that there was a Detroit before all of this. In many instances, these are the children and grandchildren of the everyday, blue collar refugees that were forced to flee, coming back to reclaim the neighborhoods that their ancestors built. This is, however, just part of the story, as we now have the less fortunate to consider. Those who "stuck it out" or are simply "stuck", let them enjoy the renaissance! I know I have certainly only passed by establishments that were out of my reach, but I am still glad they are there. Just because I am not affluent enough to frequent the establishment doesn't mean I don't appreciate it.
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 4:59pm
Yup. My parents were both born and raised in Detroit. I was born at Hutzel Hospital, and we lived on the East Side until I was 3 years old. They moved to the suburbs so I could get a good education and to get out of an unsafe neighborhood. Now that I have a college education, a decent job, and the ability to pay my own rent I moved back to the city that I'm from: the city in which the previous three generations of my family lived and worked. That said, some of the more egregious acts of "gentrification" i.e.: the Albert debacle are shameful. People moving back to the city – be they young professionals, out of towners, or whomever – need to be respectful of their neighbors and the existing culture.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 6:16am
lol....I don't mean to be rude but since when in history has caucasian people moved in on someone else land and space and been accountable, let alone respectful of the surrounding people and culture? Historically never! They come in like they discovered something that was already there to begin with and displace and sometimes slaughter (indians, mexicans, africans) the inhabitants for their own personal greed and gain calling it beneficial to the land around them because they are finally here.....such elitist beliefs......yet such fear that they will be wiped clean off the face of the planet because they are the minority until they get their money floating.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:30pm
You just described human nature. It's not a "caucasion" thing. People of all colors have taken advantage of those less powerful. It's happened in Asia, in Africa, in Europe, everywhere. The Moors came for a while and took possession of large swaths of Europe. If you think one's color makes them immune to the seedier aspects of human nature, you're being very naive.
David P.
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 10:51am
Phoenix, I think the attitude you're describing is that of Plutocrats and Capitalists, not of one race against another. I think as an individual, I should feel free and welcome to move into a neighborhood with the intent of maintaining, or improving my dwelling, much to the advantage of those in my immediate block. It's the Capitalist mind-set of squeezing profit out at the expense of any and all in it's path that is most troubling.
Sun, 07/09/2017 - 11:25pm

It's obvious Phoenix is ignorant of distant and recent history. Not that that anybody should be surprised given their racist generalizations. I would suggest they read up on the history of Detroit, but I seriously doubt they're capable of reading anything.

Fri, 08/22/2014 - 3:50am
“Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out? Why can’t they get something?” – Detroit resident Lauren Hood, referencing the rent subsidies some companies offer employees to move downtown. I just moved back to MI after 20 years. My employer isn't paying my rent. Where's mine, Lauren? Will you pay for it? It's this thinking that will continually depress Detroit. You have to first loosen up the irrational institutions and victim mindset before any real investment will happen.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 6:19am
I know a few people who are receiving subsidies to reside are not one of hoo....pot calling the kettle black? Speak on what you know....not what you think. One of the investors who happens to be the guy who owns quicken loans is in fact offering his employees subsidies to move downtown and he is not the only is your friend, google it and sit down with your finger pointing at those who believe fair is fair...just because you want something doesn't mean you take it from those who already have it.....but, the privilege will never understand their privilege....wonder if it's because they are color blind to only see what applies to them and not others?
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:37pm
I can only assume you didn't bother to read my comment or are illiterate. I never denied Quicken, for example was giving subsidies to employees to live downtown. I think it's a good thing. I think it benefits the city, which has bled population, and I think in principle, it's great for people to live in the community where they work. There's little in it for the company, actually. If my employer wants to give me a $500 Xmas bonus, why would you, not working for said company, feel entitled to it? Your rant is nonsensical. If you want the benefits of working for a particular company, get a job there!
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:39pm
Also, you're "boo hoo/pot-kettle" comments reflect someone who doesn't understand the concept of irony or a facetious comment.
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 8:34am
Detroit had decades to transform itself into a shining star on the river. The result is evident. A depressed war zone of decay with its former mayor in prison. It is time to take another approach. What one person would label "gentrification" another would view it as "ressurection". If I hear the word "subsidize" one more time I may become physically ill. I don't care if you are a newbie, long time resident, black, white or green. If there is progress of any kind for the city of Detroit the wise will embrace and encourage it.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 6:20am
Unless it will somehow force displacement on them....what wise person would vote against themselves....oh entire race of low class white men and women who do it all the time. I'll step down.....:)
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 9:43pm
Yes, let's leave everything shitty so no one has to move a few neighborhoods over. Smart plan. Do agree w/ you on the lower class whites voting against their own interests though. Reagan got that ball rolling.
Sun, 08/24/2014 - 8:30am
Its very simple really. Investors invest to make money. If the environment for the investor gets clouded by any entity seeking to reduce the profit margin by demanding entitlements for ANY reason, the investor will seek out more fertile ground. If I invite you to my party with the disclaimer that you must pay for all of the food, you will look for another friend. If there will ever be progress for Detroit it must create an atmosphere where it is easy for the investor to make a profit. A long line of people with their hand out chases progress away. This concept will always upset those seeking something for nothing, but it will remain the reality. Failure to accept this reality will simply leave things the way they are. Its simple really.
Fri, 08/22/2014 - 6:53pm
The City of Detroit has had plenty of opportunity over the past 50 years to create an environment that encouraged residents to facilitate a desirable city to live and work in. The number one impediment to achieving this culture is the continuous victimizing. This attitude strips confidence and creates dependency. The people that have run the city for 50 years have fed off the billions of federal, state, and nonprofit money that has flowed into Detroit as distressed city. The businesses in bed with the politicians scammed this money into their pockets with an incentive to create the environment that pushed away the majority of citizens that did not accept dependency to a government handout or subsidy. The victimizing is such a culture of the City of Detroit; unless it can be extinguished with a new environment that attracts people (in large numbers) that are prepared to create value for other people in their product and services, the story of Detroit will be no different than the past 50 years.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 6:24am
And you know this culture because you reside here or because you feel entitled to tell others how they feel? I'm a native detroiter and I don't feel victimized at all....I do however know when someone is trying to pull some ish over my head. White people have been displacing minorities for, how did they obtain america? How did they get Texas? How did they colonize Africa......oh yea.....please tell me how this gentrification works for the natural inhabitants where white people feel they are entitled to expand. And I'd have no issues if this so called expansion included those who were already there. I live on the outskirts so this problem is not mine to bare but I do feel for those it affects.........
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 10:08pm
In short, gentrification will help Detroit because A) it brings in sorely needed residents and more importantly, tax dollars, that serve the city as a whole, funding schools, EMS, etc. and B) it's not as worrisome as it would be in say, a city like NYC, where the people have nowhere else to go. Those displaced from downtown still have plenty of good neighborhoods to find affordable housing, like the Villages, SW, etc. And all those neighborhoods will see increased funding via the new tax dollars. What's your solution? Let Detroit fester as it has over decades, bleeding money and residents out to the burbs? Guess what, there are people who can't live in Royal Oak who could afford it 30 years ago.
Sat, 08/23/2014 - 5:31pm
" Take the rent subsidies paid by some companies for employees who choose to live downtown or in Midtown. “Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out?” she said. “Why can’t they get something?”" Those people would be eligible for the subsidies if they gained employment from one of those companies, just like anyone else. There's a difference between an employer offering subsidies to their employees from the company's funds and somehow expecting everyone to get a subsidy payed for, I'm guessing us as taxpayers. Your complaint is nonsensical.
Sun, 08/24/2014 - 11:32am
Stop calling these rent subsidies. They are part of the employees total compensation package, similar to medical benefits. The employer could drop the in town living compensation and pay the employee more, which would allow them to drop their rent money in the burbs instead of in Detroit.
Mon, 08/25/2014 - 5:57pm
I totally agree w/ your sentiments, but they ARE subsidies, by definition. The subsidies are part of the compensation package, as you noted
John S.
Sun, 08/24/2014 - 9:21pm
There's the economic concept of surplus value. Long term residents are a distinctive lot and no doubt have stayed where they are so long because they are paying far less in rent than the value they place on staying there (use value). An outward shift in the demand curve due to gentrification leads to an increase in prices (rents). If long term residents stay, and can afford to do so, they will be paying a lot more for the same thing and they won't be happy with the new and higher prices. There are risks everywhere in life, and one risk of renting is gentrification. The upside, of course, is that rising prices will attract increased supply of rental housing, a strong argument against rent control. Housing markets, in the absence of ill-considered government interventions, are relatively efficient. If properties were assessed at their true market value, and the stratospheric millage were reduced some, there would be no lack of affordable rental housing in the city.
Wed, 08/27/2014 - 12:40pm
Detroit needs all the gentrification it can get...the media just fuels naysayers, baits the haters, and casts doubt on the recovery. There is plenty of space in the city for EVERYONE. And no, someone investing in a coffee shop does not want that crappy liquor next door. Leave the young folks affecting positive change alone and help the folks who need help, Bridge Mag. Oh, and of course everyone commenting is an expert. Ugh!
Angie Schmitt
Tue, 09/02/2014 - 2:03pm
Gentrification is the wrong word to use here. I think we're all fascinated by the sort of culture clash created when richer white people move into poorer minority neighborhoods. But it's a distraction -- not the cause -- of Detroit's problems. I mean how many black people living in Detroit's biggest problem is being priced out of their neighborhood by young whites? Detroit needs to recognize that its housing market realities are the opposite of places that have real gentrification problems -- Brooklyn, SF. What Detroit has experienced is much the opposite -- housing market collapse. I wish there was a better understanding of that issue and the way it is impacted by another real estate phenomenon -- much more prevalent in the Detroit region: sprawl and segregation. Tens of thousands of Detroiters have been displaced by that -- their home values, their wealth -- eroded by that phenomenon. Instead the media is focused on a few coffee shops -- as if that ranks even worth mentioning on the racial injustice meter in metro Detroit.
Tue, 12/30/2014 - 7:32pm
“Yes, we want new things to come, we want more resources for the city, but we want it for everybody,” Hood said. And to citizens of one nation, the other nation has rigged the game. Take the rent subsidies paid by some companies for employees who choose to live downtown or in Midtown. “Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out?” she said. “Why can’t they get something?” It's obvious Ms. Hood doesn't understand, nor accept, the world she lives in. In this world, at least the part of it with the institutions and culture that has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of the desperate poverty of the Malthusian trap, what people get is in proportion to what they contribute to the economy, what they earn. Some people don't get as many of the good things as other people because they lack the skills and traits that would enable them to earn them. (A recent Bridge article detailed the extent to which Detroiters lack the attributes necessary to secure good paying jobs.) She says of " the rent subsidies paid by some companies for employees who choose to live downtown or in Midtown. “Where’s the subsidy for the people who have been here all along and toughed it out?" Their employer, Dan Gilbert, is paying those subsidies because he believes their presence will help create a critical mass that will tip downtown into a virtuous circle of prosperity. The people who stayed and "toughed it out" did not generate such a virtuous circle. Her question: “Why can’t they get something?” reflects the egalitarian ethics of our long ago ancestors who lived in hunter-gatherer or early agricultural settlements. Those ethics are incompatible with a modern economy that is capable of creating wealth and thus vastly improving the condition of mankind. See Nicholas Wade's excellent book "A Troublesome Inheritance."