Percentage of Renters in Spike Across Southeastern Michigan

Southeastern Michigan followed a trend similar to that of the entire state between 2000 and 2014 in that majority of the region experienced up to a 50 percent increase in the percentage of renters between 2000 and 2014. Statewide there were 998 communities (about 65 percent of the state) that experienced an increase in the total percentage of renters, and regionally there were 154 communities (about 70 percent of the region). Both regionally, and in the state, the city of Grosse Pointe had the highest change in percentage of renters between 2000 and 2014 at 967 percent. According the U.S. Census Bureau the city’s percentage of renters increased from 2 percent in 2000 to 19 percent in 2014.

The data for this post is from the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Census. The 2014 data is ACS and provides the total estimate of houses in the county subdivision, how many were owner-occupied and how many were renter-occupied. The margin of error ranges from 1,919 to 5 units. The 2000 data is from the Census and provides a sample of each county subdivision, along with the number of owners and renters in the sample. No margins of error were provided. For both 2000 and 2014, the percentage of renters was calculated and then used to determine the change between 2000 and 2014.

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The three communities in the state, and regionally, with the highest percentage increase in renters between 2000 and 2014 were located in Southeastern Michigan. With the city of Grosse Pointe at the top, the city of Memphis in Macomb County came in second and Pittsfield Township in Washtenaw County came in third. Between 2000 and 2014 Memphis experienced a 746 percent increase in renters and Pittsfield Township experienced a 643 percent increase.

In Wayne County there were four communities where there was more than a 100 percent increase in the amount of renters between 2000 and 2014. Those communities were Grosse Pointe, Gibraltar (232%), Dearborn (118%) and Redford (115%). The city of Detroit experienced a 29 percent increase in the percent of renters in that time frame. According the Census data, the percentage of renters in Detroit in 2000 was 38 percent and in 2014 that number increased to 49 percent.

While majority of the region experienced an increase in the percentage of renters between 2000 and 2014 there were several that experienced a decrease. As shown on the map, in Southeastern Michigan many of those communities were the rural ones located in Washtenaw County. There were 15 communities in Washtenaw County that experienced a decrease in the percentage of renters; those decreases ranged from 1 percent to 87 percent. York Township experienced the 87 percent decrease, going from a 67 percent rental rate to a 9 percent rental rate in 2014.

Both regionally and across the state, Detroit had amongst the highest percentage of renters in 2014 at 49 percent. The city of Ypsilanti and Royal Oak Township both had the highest percentage of renters in the state of 68 percent. Royal Oak Township experienced a decrease in the percentage of renters between 2000 and 2014, going from 83 percent to 68 percent. The city of Ypsilanti though experienced an increase from 40 percent to 68 percent.

The fact that the percentage of renters across Southeastern Michigan and the state as a whole has increased further solidifies our previous assessment that the cost of rental units is increasing due to the demand in the number of people seeking such units. Much of this increase in demand is driven by households forced into the rental market by foreclosure. As such, former homeowners are often simply renting units that were occupied by homeowner just months before. Should the demand for rental units continue to increase as these former homeowner units (often single family dwellings) are absorbed, new construction of apartments could increase density, allowing for more units to be built. However, this option may require changes in zoning regulations and support from the local communities.

CENSUS: Median Housing Values Decline in Southeastern Michigan

According to American Community Survey (ACS) data, median housing values throughout Southeastern Michigan declined between 2010 and 2014. These results are based on residents’ estimates of the value of their homes. They also contrast with more recent reports based on the Case-Schiller Index of actual sales.

The city of Algonac in St. Clair County had the largest median housing value decrease during that time period at 48 percent; the reported 2014 value was $102,500 and the reported 2010 value was $195,800. Hamtramck and Redford Township came in second for the median value decreases throughout the region at 44 percent. For Hamtramck, the ACS reported the median housing value was $39,800 in 2014 and in 2010 the median value was reported at $73,700. In Redford Township the median housing value was reported at $63,900 in 2014 and $118,500 in 2010. Both of these communities are located in Wayne County, which had the largest overall median housing value decline of the seven counties in the region at 28 percent. On the other hand, Washtenaw County had the lowest percent decline in median housing value between 2010 and 2014 at 10 percent. In Washtenaw County there were nine communities with a median housing value decrease of 5 percent or less. In addition, the city of Dexter experienced a 3 percent median housing value increase, from $216,600 to $222,6000. In Oakland County, cities that experienced a housing value increase between 2010 and 2014 were Birmingham (1%) and Rochester (1%). Lake Angelus in Oakland County did not experience an increase or decrease; median housing values for this community remained at above $1 million for both years.

 

Of all the communities in Southeastern Michigan, Lake Angelus also had the highest reported median housing value in 2014 at above $1 million (the Census does not specify above $1 million). River Rouge on the other hand had the lowest reported median housing value $36, 800.

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In recent Drawing Detroit posts, and throughout the media, increases in median housing values have been reported in 2015 and 2016. The data displayed in this post shows a contrary picture for 2010 through 2014. This, in part, may be based on perception as the housing values used in the ACS are based on respondents’ estimates of how much their property would sell for at that time. As we continue to explore housing questions in upcoming posts another question to now be addressed will be why there are different reports on the state of housing values and why, and if, there is in fact a perception that homes are worth less than in 2010 when the rebound from the economic crisis was moving at a much slower pace.

Southeastern Michigan Counties Hold Power in Regional Authorities

In Southeastern Michigan there are eight main regional governing bodies, most of which rely heavily on the counties to fill out the structures. These governing bodies are: the Huron Metro-Parks, the Detroit Institute of Arts Authority (one in each Macomb, Oakland, Wayne), the Detroit Zoo Authority (one in each Macomb, Oakland, Wayne), the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit, the Great Lakes Water Authority, the Regional Transit Authority and the Detroit Regional Convention Center Authority and the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG).

Each of these regional governing bodies are made up of individuals who have been either appointed by a County Board of Commissioners, a County Executive, or a combination of both. County Executives have the most appointment authority. With the exception of SEMCOG and the Huron-Clinton Metroparks County Executives have some type of appointment authority with each regional body. This power, for both the counties and the County Executives, is one of the structural patterns that exists in this region’s fragmented group of regional authorities. The City of Detroit Mayor and the Governor have roles in the various authorities, but to a much lesser extent.

Another pattern that exists is that none of these regional bodies allow for their seats to be filled by elections, causing a lack of accountability and an increased ability for personal interests to be pursued. Instead of electing individuals to govern these public bodies, dozens of public officials are hand picking individual candidates to fill the seats. This process, for each regional authority, allows for stakeholders to pursue these new roles to exercise their influence over the governing body. This new layer of politics is also coupled with the fact that the elected officials, particularly county officials, can further their personal agendas with the appointing powers they have been given in this rise of fragmented regionalism.

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With eight various regional authorities now overseeing the governance of everything from our cultural institutions to water, the way in which these bodies are structured in terms of members vary greatly. For example, when looking at the Detroit Institute of Arts authorities for the counties (Macomb, Oakland and Wayne) none of the three have the same number of individuals on their board (click here for the history of the art authorities). Despite that each board has been set up for the same purpose-to oversee the DIA millage founds levied in their county-how they are structured vastly varies. In Wayne County, the Board of Commissioners have the authority to appoint six of the nine members; the Board then confirms the Wayne County Executives three appointments. In Oakland County the Board Chair appoints three members to the Art Authority and the County Executive appoints two. In Macomb County there is a seven member board, the County Board Chair appoints two members, the County Executive appoints two members and three members are appointed by the County Executive, with approval from the Board of Commissioners.

The Detroit Zoo is the only other regional entity with three different boards (one per county in which the operational millage is levied) that serve as its overall governing authority. The number of members who serve on each County board for zoo does not vary, but a look at the total number of representatives on each board, whether it be a Zoo Authority or SEMCOG greatly varies between 5 members to 47 members (SEMCOG is the only one with 46 members). The total number of representatives on each regional authority is shown in the chart above.

The legislations that created other regional authorities states each authority will only have a single governing body. However, even with those bodies we see the number of representatives vary, as do appointing authorities, which are often times defined in the body’s articles of incorporation.

These varying structures and appointment authorities again show the fragmented nature of our regional authorities. Until the financial downfall of Detroit began regionalism never strongly existed in Metro-Detroit. However, that has since changed as these bodies emerged out of economic and functional necessities.

Due to the manner in which these regional governing bodies emerged ( for more historical context click here) there is no cross functional consolidation of the kind envisioned by proponents of metropolitan governance. This functional differentiation is consistent with the polycentric nature of metropolitan Detroit, the decades-long animosity between Detroit and its neighbors, and persisting racial tensions.

 

For additional historical context on the topic of regionalism in Southeastern Michigan, below is a table highlighting which state legislations gave way to each regional authority.

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Oakland County has Largest Decrease in Foreclosure Filings

Between 2010 and 2014 foreclosure filings throughout Southeastern Michigan dropped between 77 to 87 percent, depending on the county. Oakland County experienced the largest decrease in foreclosure filings in the region at 87 percent and St. Clair County experienced the smallest decrease in the region at 77 percent.

The data used for this post was provided by RealtyTrac.com, a company which tracks and provides comprehensive housing data by gathering such information from parcel level records. The foreclosure data examined here is based off of the total number of properties that received at least one foreclosure filing during that year. Foreclosure filings can include a Notice of Default, a pending lawsuit filing, a Notice of Trustee Sale, a Notice for Foreclosure Sale and/or a Real Estate Owned foreclosure filing.

Wayne County had the highest number of filings in Southeastern Michigan, both in 2014 and 2010. In 2014 there were 6,259 filings and in 2010 there were 36,704. The number of foreclosure filings in 2014 in Wayne County accounted for .76 percent of the county’s housing units and in 2010 the number of foreclosure filings accounted for 4.38 percent of the County’s housing units. Overall there was an 83 percent decrease in the number of foreclosure filings between 2010 and 2014 in Wayne County.

On the opposite end of the spectrum Livingston County had the lowest amount of foreclosure filings in 2014 at 347. In 2010 though Monroe County had the lowest number of foreclosure filings, according to Realtytrac.com at 2,361.

Michigan Foreclosure Filings

Michigan Foreclosure Filings 2010-2014

Although Wayne County consistently had the highest number of foreclosure filings in the region between 2010 and 2014 it did not always have the highest percentage of housing units for which foreclosures were filed. For example, in 2010 4.55 percent of Macomb County’s housing units had at least one foreclosure filing; that percentage was 4.38 for Wayne County. Of the five years examined here, 2012 was the only year when Wayne County had the highest percentage of its housing units with at least one foreclosure filing; that number was 2.57 percent.

Unlike Wayne and Macomb counties, Washtenaw County regularly had the lowest percentage of housing units between 2010 and 2014 with at least one foreclosure filing. In 2010 the percentage of housing units with at least one foreclosure filing was 2.38 and by 2014 that number in Washtenaw County decreased to 0.47.

Foreclosure Filings Housing

In 2010 Oakland County had 20,445 foreclosure filings and in 2014 that number dropped to 2,682, meaning there was 87 percent decrease in the number of foreclosure filings there. This percentage decrease in the number of filings was the greatest in the region. The 20,445 foreclosure filings in 2010 for Oakland County were equivalent to 3.89 percent of Oakland County’s housing units and the number of foreclosure filings in 2014 for Oakland County was equivalent to .51 percent of the housing units. According to the Oakland County Treasurer’s Office, in 2014 834 properties were offered up for for tax auction by the county and in 2010 that number was 909 (2012 was the highest recent number for Oakland County at 1,651).

St. Clair County had the smallest percentage decrease in the number of foreclosure filings between 2010 and 2014. In 2010 Realtytrac.com reported there were 2,493 foreclosure filings and in 2010 that number decreased to 569. The 2010 number of foreclosure filings in St. Clair County was equivalent to 3.4 percent of the housing units there and the 2014 number was equivalent to .79 percent.

Michigan change in foreclosure filings

Overall, we see that there has been a very substantial decline in foreclosure filings in Metro-Detroit. However, the number of foreclosure filings in 2010 may still be having an affect on today’s current rental market. Foreclosure is damaging to an individual’s credit score, making it more difficult to take out lines of credit, which can affect an their ability to purchase a home. With foreclosure filings ranking in the thousands in each county for at least a few years, it is likely that at least a large share of people whose properties were ultimately foreclosed went to seek rentals. This would mean the total number of renters in the region would have increased, which could lead to an increase in rental demand, particularly if the number of rental units did not increase. The topic of rental demand as it relates to the percent of renter occupied units and the number of rental units available will be explored in upcoming posts as we continue to explore housing issues, particularly those related to increasing rental costs, in Southeastern Michigan.

Rent Costs Increase throughout Michigan between 2000-2014

In 2014 there were 122 different communities in the state of Michigan with gross median rental costs above $1,000; Bloomfield Hills topped this list with a gross median rent price of $2,001. Despite this community being at the top of the median gross rental cost list for the state it experienced a 5 percent median rental price decrease between 2000 and 2014. On the opposite end of the spectrum, in 2014 there were 72 different Michigan communities with median gross rental prices under $500 a month; Rose City in Ogemaw County had the lowest gross median rental cost at $294 per month. Like Bloomfield Hills, Rose City also experienced a decrease in its median gross rental cost between 2000 and 2014. However, for Rose City that decrease was much greater; there was a 50 percent median gross rental cost decrease between 2000 and 2014.

On a national basis, in 2014 the gross median rental cost was $920 and 41 percent of rental units throughout the U.S. had a gross median rental price above $1,000; 12.1 percent of the rental units in the U.S. had gross median rental costs below $500.

For this post, data from the year 2000 is from the decennial census while the 2014 data is from the 5 year American Community Survey. Additionally, when comparing gross median rent data between 2000 and 2014 (as seen in the second map) the 2000 rent prices were adjusted to reflect 2014 dollars so a more accurate reflection of the changes could be presented.

Gross rent is defined as the monthly amount of rent plus the estimated amount of utilities and fuel.

MedGrossRent2014

The map above shows the range of median gross rental costs throughout the state of Michigan in 2014. Looking at the highest bound of rents–$1,275 and there were 20 communities throughout the state, 13 of which were located in Southeastern Michigan and seven of which were located in Oakland County. Of those in the region, two were located in Wayne County-Grosse Pointe Shores and Grosse Pointe Farms. As noted, there were over 100 communities with gross rental prices above $1,000 in Michigan in 2014.

Regionally, there were also five communities on the lower end of the spectrum, with gross median rental costs below $625. The city of Highland Park was the only one located in Wayne County, with a gross median rent of $624. The city of Center Line had the lowest gross median rental cost in the region at $492.

The city of Detroit had a gross median rental cost of $756 in 2014. This was in the 42 percentile of gross median rental prices throughout the state. Detroit’s gross median rental cost was higher than more than 50 percent of the other communities in the state.

ChangeRent00to14

In total, there were 80 Michigan communities with gross median rental price increases above 50 percent between 2000 and 2014 (These are the communities for which there was full data for comparison). Of those 80 communities, four were located in the Southeastern Michigan region, two of which were located in Oakland County. Of those communities, Orchard Lake Township had the highest percentage change in gross median rent at 117 percent. In 2014 the gross median rent in the township was $1,909 and in 2000 (in adjusted 2014 numbers) the gross median rent was $879 ($635 in 2000 dollars).

Cross Village Township in Emmett County had the largest overall gross median rental cost increase between 2000 and 2014 (in 2014 dollars) at 132 percent. In 2014 the gross median rental price in the township was $915 while in 2000 the price (in 2014 dollars) was $415 (equivalent to $300 in non-adjusted 2000 dollars). It should be noted though that this Lake Michigan town had a population of 294 in 2014, meaning that a small number of large increases in rent could produce the large reported change in the median.

Of the 27 communities in Michigan with a decrease in gross median rental costs between 2000 and 2014 for which full data was available for comparison, only two were located in Southeastern Michigan. These communities-Rose and Sylvan Lake townships in Oakland County and Deerfield Township in Livingston County-experienced rental rate decreases at 1.5 percent, 2.7 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Between 2000 and 2014 the city of Detroit’s gross median rental cost increased by 12 percent. Detroit’s gross median rental cost increase was higher than about 70 percent of the other Michigan communities between 2000 and 2014 (when comparing in 2014 dollars). While not depicted in either of the maps, it was reported on July 23 2016 by the Detroit News that the housing market in Downtown Detroit continues to soar, with average rents increasing more that 11 percent since 2011 in that area of the city. According to the article, the average monthly rent for a one bedroom apartment in Downtown Detroit is $1,359.

Overall, about 65 percent of the state’s cities or townships had gross median rental cost increases between 2000 and 2014, when dollars were adjusted for comparison. Various reasons may explain the overall increase in gross median rental costs (in comparable dollars) throughout the state, the most likely of which is greater demand. The 2008-2009 recession produced a large uptick in foreclosures, nationally and throughout the state. With this, many people were left looking for affordable rental units. With an increase in demand comes an increase in price. In a future post we will discuss the overall change in rental rates throughout Southeastern Michigan between 2000, 2010 and 2014, but according to the U.S. Census Bureau we do know that on a national basis the recession produced a greater demand in rental units. Since gross median rent also includes the estimated cost of utilities and fuel, increases in energy costs overtime are also likely contributors to the overall increase.

Detroit Unemployment Increases, Along with Number Employed and Labor Force

  • From April to May 2016, the unemployment rate across the state and within the city of Detroit increased (monthly);
  • Overall, however, the number of employed Detroit residents increased (monthly);
  • The Purchasing Manager’s Index for Southeastern Michigan decreased from May to June 2016 (monthly);
  • Commodity Price Index also decreased for Southeastern Michigan (monthly);
  • Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area shows home prices continue to gradually increase on a month-to-month basis.

Unemployment

According to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan increased to 4.5 percent in May 2016; the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in April. During this same period, unemployment in the City of Detroit also increased, but at a higher rate. Detroit’s unemployment increased from 9.1 percent in April to 9.8 percent in May.

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In May of 2016 the number of employed Detroit residents rose to 218,656, an increase of 1,577 from April. Between May of 2016 and May of 2015 there was a total increase of 8,756 employed Detroit residents, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Along with the the number of employed Detroit residents increasing over the last year, so has the labor force. Between April and May of 2016 the labor force increased by 3,784 and between May of 2015 and May 2016 the labor force increased by 803. In May of 2016 the labor force recorded by the the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget for the city of Detroit was 242,432.

Auto Manufacturing employment

The above chart shows the number of people employed in the auto manufacturing industry in the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (Detroit-Warren-Livonia) from May 2015 to May 2016. In that time frame the number of people employed in this industry decreased by 900, from 94,200 to 93,300.

PMI

The Purchasing Manger’s Index (PMI) is a composite index derived from five indicators of economic activity: new orders, production, employment, supplier deliveries, and inventories. A PMI above 50 indicates the economy is expanding.

According to the most recent data released on Southeast Michigan’s Manager’s Index, the PMI for June 2016 was 58.8, a decrease of 1.1 points from the prior month. The May 2016 PMI was a decrease of 3.2 from May of 2015.  Although there was a decrease, the PMI is still considered strong because of new orders, employment and production. There was a decrease in finished goods, which caused the decrease, along with a decrease in the commodity price index, which is shown below.

Commodity Price Index

The June 2016 Commodity Price Index decreased 7.1 points from May and 6.9 points from the prior year. According to the ISM-Southeastern Michigan PMI the Commodity Price decreased between May and June, however fuel, paper and plastics went up in price.

Detroit Home Prices

The above charts show the Standard and Poor’s Case-Shiller Home Price Index for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area. The index includes the price for homes that have sold but does not include the price of new home construction, condos, or homes that have been remodeled.

According to the index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $103,780 in March 2016. This was an increase from $97,900 from March of 2015 and an increase from $93,780 from February of 2014.

Detroit has Highest Percentage of Kids Tested for Lead Poisoning

In 2015 about 37 percent of children under the age of 6 in the city of Detroit were tested for an elevated blood lead level, according to data provided by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This was the highest percentage of children tested in the state; Livingston County had the lowest percentage of children under the age of 6 tested at 8.91 percent.

As shown in an earlier post, we also saw that in 2015 Detroit had the highest percentage of children under the age of 6 with blood lead levels elevated above 5 ug/dL at 7.5 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Similarly, Livingston County had among the lowest percentage of its child population under the age of 6 tested for elevated blood lead levels while also having less than 2 percent of its child population test positive for elevated blood lead levels.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, all children enrolled in Medicaid are considered to be at risk for lead poisoning. Michigan Medicaid Policy requires all children between the ages of 12 and 24 months ages be tested for elevated blood lead levels at least once. Additionally, a child between the ages of 36 and 72 months must be tested for blood lead levels if they have not been tested before. The 2015 data available for the number of children (ages 0-18) on Medicaid was not available for this post. However, we do know a child in Michigan is automatically referred to the state’s Medicaid program if their family’s income is at or below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Level.

It is particularly important children at risk of lead poisoning be tested because the substance is absorbed more into a child’s body than an adults. Additionally, a child’s brain and nervous system is more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths.

Michigan Lead Testing

Genesee County is where the city of Flint is located and in 2015 between 20 and 25 percent of Genesee County’s child population under the age of 6 was tested for elevated blood lead levels; more than 75 children under the age of 6 in just three zip codes within the city limits of Flint tested positive for elevated blood lead levels in 2015.

In response to the Flint Water Crisis, the State of Michigan has since “strongly recommended” that all children who live in the city, live in a home using Flint water or attend school or a childcare center in the city be tested for elevated blood lead levels. In addition, the state has required all children insured by Medicaid and/or enrolled in WIC be tested. These recommendations will certainly increase the percentage of children tested for elevated blood lead levels in Genesee County for the year of 2016.

Also, in a recent post we discussed how the city of Grand Rapids had one select zip code with 188 children under the age of 6 with elevated blood lead levels; in total there were no more than 523 children under the age of 6 in all of Grand Rapids with elevated blood lead levels. While the data on the percentage of children under the age of 6 tested for elevated blood lead levels in Grand Rapids in 2015 wasn’t readily available we do know that between 17 and 19.99 percent of children under the age of 6 in Kent County were tested for elevated blood lead levels.

The city of Adrian was another municipality discussed in a previous post because of the number of children with elevated blood lead levels. In 2015 there were 67 children under the age of 6 with elevated blood lead levels in Adrian, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This number of children with elevated blood lead levels in Adrian contributed to the 10 percent of children under the age of 6 with elevated blood lead levels in Lenawee County. Subsequently, between 13.5 and 16.99 percent of children under the age of 6 were tested for elevated blood lead levels in 2015.

Although the areas mentioned above have been noted as having a high percentage of children under the age of 6 with elevated blood lead levels, none of the counties in which they are located in had more than 25 percent of children under the age of 6 tested for elevated blood lead levels. The counties in Michigan that did have more than 25 percent of its child population under the age of 6 tested for elevated blood lead levels were:

  • Jackson County
  • St. Clair County
  • Shiawasee County
  • Hillsdale County
  • St. Joseph County
  • Benzie County
  • Baraga County

The map above shows that elevated blood lead testing throughout the state of Michigan is inconsistent and 15 counties throughout the state had less than 13.5 percent of its child population under the age of 6 tested for elevated blood lead levels. We also know that children living in poverty have a higher risk of being poisoned by lead, but as the map shows, not all children under the age of 6 are being tested for lead poisoning, and of those not being tested there is certainly a portion of at risk children being excluded.

 

Locals Push Ahead as Michigan Takes Steps Backward for LGBT Inclusivity

Just over a year ago love won nationwide when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. County courthouses across Michigan began issuing marriage licenses to those who wanted a legally recognized union, despite their sexual orientation and gender identity. However, even such a monumental move toward equality didn’t serve as a catalyst for the State of Michigan to make strides to secure other basic human rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community. In fact, state level statutes have failed to recognize equality for the LGBT community, whereas at the local level various officials are working to ensure comprehensive civil rights policies exist in the areas they have jurisdiction over.

Currently, there are 46 Michigan cities and counties, combined, which provide some type of employment and/or housing discrimination protection to the LGBT community. Fourteen of these local government entities, including three counties, are located in Southeastern Michigan. Just in Southeastern Michigan, those 11 communities with inclusive non-discrimination policies make up 23 percent of the region’s population. The three counties with such policies-Macomb, Washtenaw and Wayne-make up 64 percent of the population. But, while these efforts deserve to be applauded, many of the policies are by no means comprehensive. At the municipal level expanded civil rights policies are to be adhered to by all employers and/or housing providers. This isn’t necessarily the case at the county level though. Macomb County’s human rights policy is only extended to the county’s 2,200 current and potential employees; its contracting policy doesn’t even reflect the changes.

Both historical and recent policies, and lack thereof, at the state level have created a culture that lacks inclusion and basic human rights protections. Currently the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act (the state’s non-discrimination policy) does not include sexual orientation or gender identity and expression. Attempts to amend this statewide civil rights act have occurred since 1973 (a year after East Lansing and Ann Arbor adopted their policies), the most recent being 2014. The proposed 2014 amendments aimed to add exactly what is missing, however those amendments were never approved in the legislature. This lack of action and support for basic human rights continues to leave Michigan without a blanket discrimination protection for the LGBT community and a political gesture toward inclusivity.

Although the legislature failed take action on the Elliott Larsen Act, in the summer of 2015 three Religious Freedom Adoption bills became law, allowing religious organizations to deny placement of a child in a home based on religious grounds. These bills did not have direct language against the LGBT community but it can be argued they are, at least in part, targeted at by these bills. State Rep. Andrea LaFontaine said the bills were meant to protect the public-private partnership that allows Michigan to have an 80 percent adoption rate. She said,  by making the then proposed bills law, no agency would have to choose “between their faith and helping children.” The Human Rights Campaign said these laws make it even more difficult for LGBT couples to adopt, particularly as the Michigan Catholic Conference and Bethany Christian Services make up 25-30 percent of adoptions that occur in Michigan, according to information provided by Gov. Snyder’s office to the Washington Blade (link). These laws may have protected those public-private partnerships, but they also opened up another avenue for discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Not even a year later it seems another door toward discriminatory practices could open. Proposed House Bill 5717 and Senate Bill 993, which were introduced to the Legislature a few months ago, aim to keep the use of public school restrooms restricted to those with the same biological sex; SB 993 goes as far as relying on chromosomes). Anatomy and gender are not one in the same, and while the supporters of these bills claim they are trying to protect the children, the effect is likely to be discrimination against them.

Michigan citizens do not have access to fair employment, housing and family planning options because of their sexual orientation or gender identification, and that soon may be extended to the use of the restroom. Yes, there have been concentrated attempts at the local level to broaden access to these basic human rights for over 30 years. However, some of the State’s elected leaders continue to build walls, including between children, even as local government entities and the nation tirelessly work toward acceptance and inclusivity.

Below is a timeline and a map showing the most recent years in which a Michigan municipality implemented a more comprehensive non-discrimination policy that addresses equal employment and/or housing rights based on gender identity and/or sexual orientation.

Items to note:

  • East Lansing was the first local government entity in the nation to enact to include sexual orientation in its civil rights protections. East Lansing expanded its original 1972 policy that provided employment protections based on sexual orientation to include housing protections in 1986 and to include gender identity in 2005. Since 2005 was the most recent policy amendment East Lansing is listed under 2005 in the timeline and on the map.
  • Ann Arbor adopted policies that provided residents employment and housing protections in 1972; in 1999 it expanded those protections to include gender identity. Ann Arbor is listed as amending its policies in 1999, not 1972, because that was the most recent change.
  • Detroit updated its initial 1979 employment and housing protections beyond sexual orientation to include gender identity in 2008. Detroit is listed as adopting comprehensive non-discrimination policies in 2008 because, again, that was the most recent year they were updated.

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Zippia: Michigan’s Living Wage is $49K

Using MIT’s living wage index, the website Zippia created a website showing what the living wage in every U.S. state is. According to the website, to support two adults and one child in the state of Michigan it costs $49,000. This put Michigan in the third quintile. Illinois and Wisconsin both had higher living wage costs, $51,000 and $52,000 respectively, while Indiana and Ohio had lower living wage costs, $47,000 and $46,000, respectively.

To read the article and view the map click here.

Monroe, St. Clair Counties Rank Highest for Green Infrastructure; Majority is Agricultural Land

In Southeastern Michigan there was about 180,000 acres of green infrastructure in 2014, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG), and the regional planning agency is looking to improve and grow that number. This green infrastructure represents both natural ecosystems (wetlands, forests and parks), agricultural land and constructed versions, such as community gardens and bioswales. Both Monroe and St. Clair counties had the highest percentage of total green infrastructure in 2014 at 67 percent. Wayne County, both including and excluding Detroit, had the lowest percentage of green infrastructure. Excluding Detroit, Wayne County was made up of 32 percent of green infrastructure; including Detroit Wayne County was made up of 30 percent green infrastructure. In general, one can think of green infrastructure as the inverse of developed land, where houses, businesses, roads and other infrastructure exists.

Of this overall green infrastructure it is important to identify what it is comprised of. Below we will see how the tree canopy varies from county to county and how these variations are affected by the presence of parks and agricultural land.

The data provided for this post was found in SEMCOG’s 2014 Green Infrastructure Vision document.

Metro-Detroit Green Infrastructure

In total, Oakland County had the highest percentage of overall tree canopy at 44 percent; the county’s tree canopy made up 86 percent of its total green infrastructure. Oakland and Livingston counties were the only two in the region that had a tree canopy above the American Forest’s overall standard of 40 percent. The American Forest is the country’s oldest conservation non-profit, and SEMCOG bases its green infrastructure goals on their standards.

The county with the lowest overall tree canopy was Monroe; it had a tree canopy of 20 percent. This 20 percent of total tree canopy made up 28 percent of its total green infrastructure. This is largely because of the greater portion of land devoted to agriculture, as discussed below.

The city of Detroit had a total tree canopy of 16 percent, which is below American Forest’s standard for tree coverage in an urban area. Nevertheless this represents 85 percent of Detroit’s green infrastructure. American Forest calls for a 25 percent tree canopy coverage in an urban area. In a suburban residential the organization’s standard is 50 percent, and in a central business district that standard is 15 percent.

Metro-Detroit Tree Canopy

Metro-Detroit Tree Canopy and Green Infrastructure

While tree coverage is an important aspect of green infrastructure, it is not the only thing that can make a community “more green.” As discussed above, Monroe County had the highest percentage of overall green infrastructure yet the lowest percentage of tree canopy coverage. As shown below, this is, in part, because there was more than 123,000 acres of agricultural land in Monroe County in 2014. Monroe County had the highest amount of agricultural land in 2014 in the region followed by St. Clair County, which had about 107,000 acres of agricultural land. St. Clair County, like Monroe County, was made up of 67 percent green infrastructure. According to SEMCOG, Monroe County ranks seventh in the state in the total number of acres of vegetables (6,707) and corn, soy and wheat (169,792). St. Clair County ranked sixth in the state in the number of farms producing organic products and eighth in state for the total number of acres of soybeans it produced in 2014 (64,224).

According to SEMCOG, agricultural land is defined as “rural land used with the growing of food as the primary function, but can also provide ecological benefits.” SEMCOG classified Detroit as having 0 acres of agriculture, but this does not include the number of community gardens, which have been growing in the city through individual and organizational efforts.

While Detroit had 0 acres of agriculture land, Wayne County had 8,726 acres of agricultural land, which was the smallest amount in the region.

Metro-Detroit Agriculture Land

For total acreage of agricultural land in the region, Oakland County had amongst the smallest amount of coverage in the region but for wetland coverage it had the greatest amount. Oakland County had 77,000 acres of wetland in 2014. St. Clair (62,000 acres), Livingston (60,000) and Washtenaw (53,000) counties all had more wetland coverage than Wayne County. However, the 41,900 acres of wetland coverage in Wayne County was nearly five times the amount of agricultural land in the county. Additionally, of those 41,900 acres, 100 were located in Detroit.

Monroe County had the least amount of wetland coverage at 20,000, which is about 100,000 less acreage than it had of agricultural land.

Metro-Detroit Wetlands

Another factor into the total amount of green infrastructure present in a county is park land, which includes city, country, metro and state parks. Oakland County had the highest amount of park acreage at 61,053. Oakland County is home to five state park/recreation areas, three metroparks, 13 county parks and numerous local parks at the municipal level. Washtenaw County had the second highest acreage of park coverage at 33,499 acres, which was nearly half of Oakland County’s coverage. Like Oakland County, Washtenaw County is home to three metroparks and 13 county parks. Washtenaw County also has 20 nature preserves, numerous parks at the local level and nine state park/recreation areas.

Wayne County had about 26,000 acres of total park acreage, about 5,000 of which was located in Detroit. Belle Isle made up nearly a fifth of Detroit’s park acreage; it is 982 acres.

Metro-Detroit Parks

The amount of green infrastructure established in a community and a region is important because it can not only serve as a catalyst for economic growth but also because it serves as the base for ensuring citizens have access to clean water and air, fresh food and amenities that promote healthy and sustainable lifestyles. There is a recognition that additional green infrastructure is needed in Southeastern Michigan, which is why SEMCOG has created a green infrastructure vision. This vision aims to benchmark the current green infrastructure in the region and then identify policies that will allow for stronger and more connected infrastructure networks, more accessibility and cleaner air and water quality.