Opinion | I’m a victim of Detroit gentrification. Don’t let me lose my home.

Paul Horton is a Detroit-based freelance writer.

I’ve lived in Detroit for 33 years and while I’ve had brief periods of sleeping on couches, I’m lucky to never have been homeless. With cheap rent, I was able to survive on a meager income while pursuing something creative, either from a personal talent or being involved in a community arts center, which was more important to me than generating a larger income.

Seven years ago, my life changed after a distracted driver ran a red light and struck the car I was driving, shattering my collarbone in three places, making my long-term degenerative disc disease much worse. That left me disabled and unable to work regular jobs.

For 19 years, I’ve stitched enough income together to live in the city’s Corktown neighborhood. But rent is rising so steadily that it’s almost doubled in the past two years and is 2½ times the $325 I paid when I moved into my apartment in 2000. I get some help from my mother and since May, I’ve been on Social Security. But the $771 monthly payment leaves me with little after paying the rent.

The situation over the past two years has become critical, as rising rents citywide increasingly threaten to displace longtime residents. It doesn’t have to be that way. With some innovative programs, Detroit could become a pioneer in helping to combat a major negative impact when it comes to gentrification, pushing out the struggling artists, musicians and other creatives.

Why not create a program similar to Section 8 vouchers, using funds from foundations and philanthropists to cover the amount of the increase in rent within the past few years as well as future increases?

Last year, the city announced the development of the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund as a division under the Local Initiatives Support Corp. Perhaps a portion of the city’s $250 million of the funding target goal could be used for such a supplemental rent program.

If only I had to cover $400 of my rent, I would be able to live semi-comfortably and have a bit of money to live a little and attend some events, go out to eat or grab take-out on a regular basis, which would contribute to the economy. I also wouldn’t be so worried about my future and be able to focus better on the current nonprofit social venture I’m working on.

There are a number of innovative programs to help combat homelessness, with the most prominent being the small home village concept that gained traction nationwide, including in Detroit. But there are few models to help support low- to moderate-income residents stay in their homes because of rent increases. New York has a program but it only targets the disabled, the Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE), which exempts disabled tenants living in rent-stabilized, rent-controlled from future rent increases. Landlords that participate receive tax credits to make up the difference in frozen rent.

A report this year about the effects of gentrification by the University of Chicago and Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank offered a suggestion for low-income housing subsidies, suggesting that “targeting subsidies” help the needy “stay in neighborhoods that are improving around them.”

While the concept of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has garnered a lot of attention in recent years, a comparable concept is Universal Basic Services, or UBS, of which providing free housing to those in need is a major component. It may be many years before we see large-scale efforts establishing a UBI or providing UBS in the United States, and we should look at all options to help those who are struggling. 

With the need for affordable housing far outpacing the supply, any concept that can serve as a bridge to help keep people in their homes should be considered, and a supplemental housing fund for those experiencing major rent increases, is worthy of implementation.

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Fri, 10/18/2019 - 3:22pm

Interesting report for the author to choose to cite in this op-ed, because the SAME report actually states there is barely any gentrification in Detroit at all. Of the 1,000 census tracts across the country that are experiencing the most rapid gentrification, only TWO are in Detroit (both in Midtown). It's disingenuous to compare gentrification in Detroit to what is happening in almost any other major city because it is nowhere near at scale to what is happening in those cities.

This isn't to say change and gentrification isn't happening in Detroit, it's just interesting that the report cited here paints a somewhat different picture than what the author is trying to convey.

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 5:00pm

Sorry, not sorry. It's big city with lots of cheap housing. Go to those places and buy something.

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 10:15pm

Or better yet, get in on all the free or low cost job training that is offered around Michigan and earn enough to buy whatever you want. To hell with a Universal Income! Living life on your knees is not living.

Fri, 10/18/2019 - 11:00pm

D.C. I'm retiring at the end of this year after working for fifty-one years. My retirement is a very small pension, Social Security, and investment contributions from my pay. Nobody gave me anything. You know what Democrats call a person who lives within his means, plays by the rules, and provides for his own in retirement? SUCKER.

Robert Honeyman
Sun, 10/20/2019 - 8:18am

Um, no. Democrats do not refer to you as a sucker. They refer to folks who are less fortunate than you as folks needing assistance. If you assume your good fortune is universal, but the difference between you and those who are unable to earn enough to save or to work for fifty years is happenstance. You are lucky enough to have never been disabled. You are lucky enough to have never (or rarely) needed a safety net. Recognize that and be thankful that the fates treated you well. Democrats refer to you as both fortunate and a model of what we all strive for. But thinking anyone less fortunate is lazy or not worth caring for is pretty sad. It's also pretty much in line with the GOP's love affair with social Darwinism.

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 9:54am

Nobody gave you anything? You had it so easy compared to the workers of today. You could walk into Fords with no high school diploma and make enough to comfortably raise a family, unions were strong, most companies offered pensions and a myriad of benefits. I could go on and on. Have a little empathy with the workers of today who weren't born when you were and don't have it easy like you had it.

middle of the mit
Sun, 10/20/2019 - 12:01am

What other job could this person have that requires less mobility than a freelance writer?

You don't want him to live on his knees. You want him to live on what the free market will supply him! And that isn't enough. It is becoming the same for all of Michigan let alone America. Let alone if you don't have a disability.

And it is literally what I have been pushing on this website for over two months. You can't find that work in lower cost neighborhoods. Otherwise all you conservatives would move up north where you think life is wonderful. Will YOU do that? Move up here today!

Just because the cost of living is lower doesn't mean that what you will make will compensate for that lower cost. In the authors case, he needs healthcare. It's cheaper down there than it is up here and you have more access to specialists.

Come on!

Sat, 10/19/2019 - 8:45am

It sounds like you are a victim of capitalism, not "gentrification". As demand increases so do prices. Of course everyone would like to live in a nice neighborhood for next to nothing. That doesn't mean they get to. You should get a roommate. Also you don't sound like a victim to me. You sound spoiled and entitled.

Andy Kopietz
Sat, 10/19/2019 - 9:23am

It would be interesting to see Detroit adopt something similar to L.A.'s backyard homes program, pioneered and designed by LA Más, a California-based Non-profit. Check it out:


Andy Kopietz
Sat, 10/19/2019 - 9:24am

It would be interesting to see Detroit adopt something similar to L.A.'s backyard homes program, pioneered and designed by LA Más, a California-based Non-profit. Check it out:


Sat, 10/19/2019 - 4:55pm

This article portrays the situation as the author is wanting other people's money to pay for him to live in an area that is beyond his means. He doesn't show concern about the sacrifices of others may have to make for his wants.
I didn't hear with the new people to the area, that he blames for causing the rise in prices, are improving [the housing, the social live/security, the other amenities] the area or just driving up prices and he simply wants the higher costs paid by others.
The article raises the question of whether the wallets of Michigan taxpayers are bottomless or whether government spending should be prioritized and criteria needs to be established so every sad story isn't used to increase spending.

Miss Carrie
Sat, 10/19/2019 - 7:06pm

So I seen what the storey I thought it would be diffrent than what it stoked. I remember the gender home fidelity in wyandotte. I dont think it took place in Detroit. But here in wyandotte many woman got there homes taken away but not me God aka. Naveah aka Nathalia rameriz. Its the first home in the chambers of commerce. Not only is my home now stolen illegally and the country illegally owning it but Im trapped in it where the man and woman who stole it ran an illegal human sex trafficing ring hostage staking telling more but they turned me over illegally yo another human trafficing ring this time brought straight to the guy who soon was going to fly into the trade centers.
The guy left from an american airport. Im in carrie through an illegal surgery at henry ford wyandotte hospital. However, my 1500 saint had the exact iimage of carrie she was made a saint through being full cartridge human.

middle of the mit
Sat, 10/19/2019 - 11:37pm

Read the comments. They tell you they are pro life, but when someone gets hurt and they can no longer afford what the "free market" charges, they tell you go get bent. But if you charge businesses more taxes?

As long as those who own things make Mammon off of everyone else it doesn't matter how much you charge.

It's not my philosophy. It is however yours.

Live with it goats.

Sun, 10/20/2019 - 11:08am

You probably need to move. I work hard, make a decent living with my wife who also works full time and we can't afford rent in Corktown either. But we own a nice home in Martin Park. We used to rent in New Center but that for to be too much too. So we bought a home at a really low price and five years later sold it for a really high price. A mortgage on a $70000 house would run you under $500 a month with insurance and taxes included. Think about that. You could rent out the other bedrooms to others in your situation and make a profit. Gentrification forced me into a difficult situation but it ultimately was the best thing that could have happened to me.

Agnosticrat 2.0
Mon, 10/21/2019 - 6:51am

I think home ownership is a great option for someone trapped in a similar situation, but...
I believe it may not be the best option for someone with disabilities.
As a homeowner myself I have to wonder how I would be able to handle the upkeep of my house if I didn’t have full functionality of my body. I would have to hire out much of the things I do to keep my investment a safe and sound place to live. In an area where the cost of living increases so will the cost of such services.
Although I have never heard of Universal Basic Services before I am optimistic that something like UBS would be the kind of program that could make our capitalist system work for people like Mr Horton. Not a handout...just a helping hand.

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 8:19pm

It doesn't have to be a house. They were handing out condos 7 years ago for less than $10K. I don't have pity for people who complain about the "high" rents in Detroit.

Thu, 10/24/2019 - 1:17pm

Maybe some roommates can pay rent, while one pays in kind with handywork/assistance. Most people with limited means in major cities have lots of roommates/housemates. Detroit seems different because there are so many single family homes, less density, but sharing quarters is how it's done when one wants to live in a vibrant big city. Otherwise get a small house in the inner suburbs, Ferndale, Dearborn, Hazel Park, etc. They are the future hipster "Brooklyns". Once a bunch of creative types, artists, chefs, musicians move there, they become wonderful new locales. You can make a lot of money by constantly MOVING to the next great place, whether in Detroit or near Detroit. The same goes for people living all over the state. Make your part of the world a better place, however you can. Keep positive! You are part of what makes the world a better place! We need more people like you!

Mike C
Mon, 10/21/2019 - 9:55am

Brandon, great post. I work 60 hours per week. I'd like to stop working and do some artsy creative stuff and have others pay my bills for me too.... but I'd don't see that happening... so I work 60 hours per week and have set up for my family for a decent standard of living.... because I do what I need to...

Agnosticrat 2.0
Mon, 10/21/2019 - 10:31am

Maybe you can convince your boss to give you a raise and hire a little bit of help. After all he likely got a humongous tax cut last year and can afford it because you are working 60 hours a week and paying his taxes for him.

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 4:18pm

Unionize your workplace(s); nobody who works 60 hours a week should have to struggle. Organize your coworkers and assert your right for a living wage


Mon, 10/21/2019 - 9:08am

You voted for Mike Duggan the partner of Dan Gilbert (SP) who is buying out the city properties with State and City money!!!

Mon, 10/21/2019 - 12:58pm

So your rent has increased since 2000? So in 19 years you're complaining about your rent going up? Boo hoo, move or get a room mate. You sound entitled.

Tue, 10/22/2019 - 12:30pm

Good grief man. You've been a victim of yourself. Get a job.