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20 Minute Neighborhoods and you!

20 Minute Neighborhoods and you!

In May of 2016 Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan introduced the concept of the 20-Minute neighborhood as part of revitalization and development plans for the future of Detroit. The objective of the 20-Minute neighborhood is to create pedestrian and cyclist friendly communities where residents are able to meet their basic needs within a 20 minute walk or bike ride from their front door.

While not a new concept, similar plans have been implemented nationally including in the cities of Portland and Baltimore.

Mayor Duggan’s plan has at least one very Detroit specific metric:
20 minutes from Blight! One should not encounter blighted buildings, derelict streetscapes, nor crumbling infrastructure within a 20 minute walking radius.

In theory the concept of 20 minute neighborhoods appears positive:

  • They create higher density neighborhoods.
  • Reduce or eliminate the need for a car.
  • Lead to better community health outcomes and the reduction of negative environmental impacts.

However, there are real concerns about how existing residents of the targeted areas are included or excluded from the planning process.

  • Historically, mass development of “blighted areas” especially when tagged with a revitalization label, has led to mass scale push out of existing neighborhood residents.
  • As areas become more desirable, the rising rates of property costs make the goal of homeownership less accessible for the existing and often low income residents, as seen in the former Cass Corridor area.
  • In the case of Downtown Detroit as rental housing stock has gone into high demand, outright displacement of existing residents, primarily seniors, has occurred.

The current neighborhoods in some form of the planning or implementation phase of the 20-Minute Neighborhood are:

  • West Village
  • Southwest
  • Live6/Fitzgerald
  • Jefferson/Chalmers
  • West Grand Blvd.
  • The North End
  • Russell Woods/Nardin Park

While these areas are all in need of resource development, revitalization should not mean the removal of long-time members of these communities.

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Housing Crisis! Why Detroit needs a Housing Trust Fund

Housing Crisis! Why Detroit needs a Housing Trust Fund

The Problem

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.

Our Commitment

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.