In recent years, states, communities and families across the country have been struggling to cope as decades of stagnant or falling wages and rising housing prices have come to a head. America is commonly said to be in the midst of a nationwide housing crisis. If we look back through history, however, it’s clear that this isn’t a new problem—at least not for people of color, particularly African Americans—and Detroit may provide one of the country’s clearest examples.
For people of color, Detroit’s housing crisis began in the early 1700s with the arrival of European colonizers. The French and later the British enslaved indigenous and Black people, exploiting their bodies, skills and knowledge to establish farms and build a thriving international fur trade.1 In the centuries since then, systemic racism has evolved constantly. It has become more subtle in modern times but always worked to maintain White exclusivity in control over land, access to quality housing and the opportunity to build generational wealth through homeownership. As a result, today we see—in Detroit and other communities across the nation—appalling racial inequities in housing, health and wealth. Reversing the harmful impacts of historical injustice through community-driven, inclusive policy must be central to revitalization efforts in the city.
What is “Affordable”?
The median household income in Detroit is $27,838 per year—roughly half of the statewide median income—and the poverty rate in the city is twice the state poverty rate.2 Compounding the struggle for many households, the average rent in Detroit increased by 26% from 2005 to 2016.3 With so few financial resources at their disposal, Detroit families have a higher housing-cost burden (the share of income spent on housing) than families in many other Michigan communities. to read more,click here