More Empty Houses


The real estate market in metro (downtown) area has shown A continuous decrease since Detroit’s economic crisis [1]. To Detroit, the increasing housing vacancy and abandonment rate is painful since these unoccupied buildings are often used by drug dealers or gangs. Many residents in downtown are worried and scared of abandoned buildings and claim such places should be torn down as soon as possible. The city government seems to be doing its best to get rid of these places. It has hired companies to demolish empty buildings, and as a result, de-structuring companies are also growing.

detroit street_the atlantic

Fig. 1: Detroit’s Street with almost no people walking by and abandoned buildings.

Gentrification Between Downtown and Suburbs

Unfortunately, since its industrial boom, Detroit has been showing a pattern of gentrification  The downtown area was usually occupied by people of color while the suburbs was taken over by rich white communities. This chronic pattern caused dramatic drops in the housing market in Detroit because extreme gentrification did not form a welcoming atmosphere for new-comers and also made people leave the city [3]. In order to mitigate the gentrification and provide residents with quality-dwellings and a safe environment, Detroit needs some reformation of housing and city policies [2].

History of Housing Systems: Encouraged Gentrification

The housing system of Detroit was not ideal in that separated political powers triggered the abandonment of housing in the central city area by supporting construction of luxurious dwellings on the urban fringe. For example, since Mayor Albert Cobo — who was in office during 1950-1957 — the white community moved to the suburbs to avoid black neighborhoods, igniting gentrification [5]. In the 1940s, a certain industrial district called “linear cities” which had affordable housing for factory workers tried to integrate black and white workers’ housing, but the government segregated the living spaces based on race despite the efforts for integration by black activists and workers [6].

This segregation was consolidated throughout the city, giving birth to several suburban centers serving rich, white communities like Beverly or Gross Pointe, while low-income families in downtown suffered from fiscal issues that prompted them to leave the city. Downtown Detroit has shown steady rates of residents leaving the city with less student enrollment in schools [4].This issue has to be dealt with properly in order to avoid further polarization of race and regional discrimination in favor of wealthy communities and luxury developments.


Housing Pattern

Detroit’s hosing has been mostly consisted of single-family housing, so the city is trying to diversify the kinds of housing [2]. It is important to reinterpret and recreate the function of single housings’ infrastructure such as garage or front yard to create a center for collaborative work with neighborhoods [2]. Those spaces can be a local trade center and support local economy provided that well-planned transformative strategy is applied [2]. Also, Detroit’s most recent strategic framework plan points out that conversation with residents is needed to determine what can be done to keep Detroiters in Detroit [2].


Works Cited

  1. O’Conner. J.B.. (2010, Dec 14). Detroit home sales decline leads slumping Metro area. The Detroit News (MI), A10.
  2. Detroit Future City 2012 Detroit Strategic Framework Plan. (2013). Detroit, MI: Inland Press.
  3. McDonald, J. F. (2014). What happened to and in Detroit?. Urban Studies (Sage Publications, Ltd.), 51(16), 3309-3329.
  4. Wilkinson, M. (2011, Mar 21). Census to reveal Detroit’s decline. The Detroit News (MI), p. A1.
  5. Brennecke, C. (n.d.). “Albert Cobo”. Encyclopedia of Detroit. Retrieved March 09, 2016, from http://detroithistorical.org/learn/encyclopedia-of-detroit/cobo-albert
  6. Thomas, J. M., & Bekkering, H. (2015). Mapping Detroit: Land, community, and shaping a city.

List of Figures

  1. Benfield, K. (2011, June 10). Detroit: The ‘Shrinking City’ That Isn’t Actually Shrinking. The Atlantic. Retrieved March 05, 2016, from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/06/detroit-the-shrinking-city-that-isnt-actually-shrinking/240193/