City government is executing a “revitalization” of Detroit that is actually based on mass removal of existing residents and incentivizing new residents and businesses to move in. This revitalization plan is based on selective investment and disinvestment. Specifically, the city has determined that most neighborhoods are no longer “viable” which is to say that these neighborhoods and the people who live there cannot be saved—the city government has said it cannot afford to meet their needs/fulfill its role.
Instead, several areas—mostly along key commercial corridors such as East Jefferson, Livernois & 6 Mile, West Grand Boulevard, Woodward, and Vernor—have been identified as “strategic areas” that will receive the bulk of new investment and improved city services (see “Toward Inclusive Growth,” Detroit Corridor Initiative, 2015). These strategic areas happen to be, on average, wealthier and whiter than those areas of Detroit that Detroit city government has decided to withhold investment in services from. We are, once again, being asked to accept that there will be neighborhoods and residents that will win at the expense of the others, who will lose. We must tell our elected officials, at City Council sessions, in the mayor’s office, and in special committee hearings, as well as at the DEGC and Detroit Future City that this is neither necessary nor acceptable.
We are asked to believe that there are no alternatives, and that the present prioritization of wealthy developers’ ability to make profit over residents’ ability to remain in Detroit, participate in governance, and receive decent services is not only inevitable but correct. We assert, however, that there are many alternatives, that we have the resources we need to see them succeed, and that we must protect and maintain current Detroiters’ rights to remain, reclaim, and rebuild Detroit in our own image and according to our neighborhoods’ needs. We will continue to organize for a Detroit that remains majority African American; that practices development without displacement; that facilitates community control of land and permanently affordable housing; and that is governed by its people and for the benefit of all of its people, especially those with the greatest need. Detroit is not a merely a geopolitical entity—it is a people, a culture, and a history. It cannot and does not deserve to move forward without those who have labored and planted our lives here.
A Solution – Establish a Housing Trust Fund
We support and are organizing around the establishment of a fully funded housing trust fund with dedicated revenue for the creation, preservation, or operations of perm anently affordable housing for those making 30% AMI or below ($20,070 or less for a family of four). Why that income bracket? Because one in three (33% of) Detroiters are members of households who make $20,070 or less each year and because this group has fewer affordable housing options than any other group in Detroit, and is also larger than any other group (representing 40,000 households) in Detroit (See Detroit Inclusionary Housing Plan & Market Study: Preliminary Inclusionary Housing Feasibility Study, August 2016, HR&A).
While we are committed to improving all Detroiters’ economic situation through equitable employment and redistribution of wealth, we know that for the time being, there are 40,000 families who cannot wait for city leaders to create a better economic situation. Families need affordable housing right now. This new housing needs to be permanently affordable because we know that there will always be a need for affordable housing. Equity and long term economic success are undermined by dwindling affordable housing or the ‘flipping’ of affordable units to market-rate.
A housing trust fund can be a mechanism to grow the pie for everyone’s benefit, so the city gets more revenue (perhaps through a real estate transfer tax) and can better address the affordable housing crisis that threatens thousands of women and children. It is the city’s responsibility to find more revenue for Detroit’s most housing-insecure residents and a housing trust fund is a tool that they need.