Number of renters surpasses homeowners in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - Renters outnumber homeowners in Detroit for the first time in 50 years.

The latest estimates available from the U.S. Census Bureau show that about 53 percent of Detroit residents rent their homes.

The foreclosure crisis of the past decade has seen tens of thousands of single-family houses in Detroit shift from owner-occupied to renter-occupied, The Detroit Free Press reported. The surge apartment living is also part of the shift.

Anika Goss-Foster, director of the Detroit Future City Implementation Office, said the trend doesn't mean Detroit is on a downward spiral.

"But it does mean that we need to pay more attention to this market. Because not only are there more renters, there are low-income renters living in poor-quality housing, and that's really what we need to be concerned about," she said.

Goss-Foster estimated that state or federal housing programs provide subsidies to about one in five of the city's 130,000 single-family rented houses.

The switch to a majority-rental market creates a need for new ways of thinking about the city, said Wendy Lewis Jackson, who manages the Kresge Foundation's Detroit revitalization programs.

"I think there's an opportunity because many families with young children have moved into these homes," she said. "And so now, how do we as a city put the right supports around the rental market to ensure stability?"

There are many ways to address the problem, including creating better landlords and making mortgage loans more available to potential buyers.

Goss-Foster and others have recommended an approach that could include such steps as reducing permit fees for landlords to upgrade their properties and offering insurance discounts for new homeowners.

"This is poor-quality expensive housing that people can't afford to maintain or live in," Goss-Foster said. "It's a really big problem."

Published: Wed, Mar 22, 2017