Detroit’s housing costs increasing faster than incomes

Throughout Southeastern Michigan monthly housing costs for renters are increasing generally faster than their monthly household incomes, which in many cases are actually declining, according to data from the American Community Survey. Even in areas where the renters’ incomes improvements exceeded the change in overall regional housing costs between 2010 and 2013, monthly housing costs continued to increase at a rapid pace. There were areas in the region though, particularly Oakland County, where monthly housing cost increases stayed below the monthly household income increases. However, Detroit’s overall housing costs generally increased at a faster pace than the monthly income changes (largely declines) of residents.




Between 2010 and 2013 all Oakland County communities experienced an increase in household income while many communities throughout the rest of Southeastern Michigan continued to experience a decrease in their household income. St. Clair County had the most communities where the household income decreased more than 9 percent (three-Columbus, Ira and Kimball townships) between 2010 and 2013; the only other county where a community had such an income decrease was Washtenaw with Bridgewater Township.

When just looking at renter’s income change between 2010 and 2013 we see that there were fewer households that experienced an income decrease and more that saw their incomes increase.

According to, Michigan is one of three states that suffers from housing affordability burdens, particularly in the rental realm. Incomes may be increasing throughout the state, but for renters earning minimum wage, those small increases often equate to the increases in monthly housing costs, especially as demand for rental units remains high.


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Despite renters throughout the region experiencing income increases, these increases were not equal to or more than their housing costs in several communities. In St. Clair County all of the communities experienced housing cost changes above those of the renters’ monthly income. This was not unique to just St. Clair County though. Rather every county in the region, with the exception of Livingston and Oakland, had renters whose income changes weren’t keeping up with their housing cost increases. With increases in Oakland County’s renters’ income outpacing their monthly housing cost increases this could mean a number of things, including: rental prices are not increasing as quickly as places such as Detroit or Warren because demand is lower; these renters’ incomes are growing as the economy stabilizes (for places like Ferndale, Royal Oak and Rochester we see their income increases are above that of non-renters) while in areas like Detroit the median household income is lower, income growth can’t keep up with cost of housing increases.

A series of five maps drilling down into the City of Detroit (presented below) shows that pockets of the city experienced household income growth between 2010 and 2013. While there was some overlap between overall income growth and renters’ income growth, this wasn’t true for every Census Tract. One area where there was such a difference was just east of Hamtramck. Here we see that Census Tract experienced overall income growth between 2010 and 2013 but the renters there did not see their incomes increase. Renters in that area also experienced monthly housing cost increases that exceeded their income changes. In this area of the city, homeownership also appears to be more prevalent than in other areas of the city.

Throughout other parts of the city we see that the majority of Census Tracts experienced an increase in renters’ household income between 2010 and 2013. But, the increases in monthly housing cost offset most income increases. This could indicate a shift toward gentrification in some areas as long-term, lower-income renters cannot afford increasing monthly housing costs as demand for rental units in Detroit continues to grow. With a current vacancy rate of 5 percent and a desire for many suburbanites to live in areas such as Downtown, Midtown and Corktown, housing costs in the city continue to grow, according to the MetroTimes (link). It is these areas where renters experienced income growth well above the overall changes in the City of Detroit. Not every Census Tract in these neighborhoods though had renters with income changes above the overall change experienced by the city as whole.






Detroit rental units

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