Detroit again the majority city of homeowners, according to census data
The majority of Detroit residents own the homes they live in, according to new census data, the first time in a decade that Detroit has more homeowners than renters.
The change comes as Detroit disputes census results that showed the city continued to lose population. Kurt Metzger, the founder of Data Driven Detroit, said the news that Detroit has more landlords than renters “certainly adds another layer of complexity” to the challenge. The latest data, from the American Community Survey, also shows a sharp increase in the number of vacant homes in the city.
At a Detroit Homecoming event on Thursday, Mayor Mike Duggan touted the shift to homeownership, saying the city lost its “proud distinction” of being a primarily homeowner city after the Great Recession.
“We have reversed the trend,” he said. “For the first time in many years, the majority of Detroit residents are homeowners again. … We’re very proud of the direction we’re going.”
Metzger said census data showed the peak of homeownership in Detroit was in 1970, when 60% of residents were homeowners. By 1990, it had fallen to 52.9%.
In 2000, the Urban Institute reported that 55% of Detroit residents owned their own homes – and the city had long been known as a place where homeownership was the norm.
But foreclosures and population loss have decimated that number and in 2012 census estimates show that 49.9% of residents owned their own homes. By 2014, it had fallen to 46.3% of residents.
Now, data shows that 51.3% of homes in the city are owner-occupied. The increase stems from a number of trends, including the rehabilitation of vacant housing in Detroit and efforts to make tenants owners.
In an email, Detroit spokesman John Roach said Duggan had made homeownership a priority since taking office, establishing the Detroit Home Mortgage Bank and Program. Foreclosure prevention efforts have also been a priority, he said.
Roach said he doesn’t know how a successful census challenge might affect the percentages.
Reynolds Farley, a retired sociology professor at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy, said there’s been an upward trend since the city emerged from bankruptcy. The change in ownership is “a modest increase” from 2019, he said, when 47.8% of homes were owner-occupied.
“The number of owners is increasing, it’s a reasonable thing to assume,” he said.
Metzger said that for a city built on single-family housing, the rise is good news. This reflects continued optimism in Detroit, he said, as median sale prices in the city hit $100,000 for the first time and efforts by the land bank and others to foster the homeownership have been successful.
“I don’t think it will reverse,” he said. “Single-family stock is becoming much more attractive.”
Numbers make a difference, he said, because people who own their own homes are more likely to have an interest in their neighborhood and city. Higher homeownership rates help strengthen a place, Metzger said.
It’s also a major part of generational wealth creation, Roach said.
It’s all true, said Darralyn Bowers, a broker at Bowers Realty & Investments in Detroit. She said home ownership creates more pride in the neighborhood because homeowners have a longer-term view of their community and are more likely to invest in their property.
Still, she doesn’t know if the numbers are correct. With low census turnout, Bowers said she was “amazed” by the numbers, but didn’t believe them. There are still more renters than homeowners in Detroit, she said.
“Even if it’s not, it’s a positive trend for the city,” she said. “There is no downside to home ownership in Detroit.”