Eastpointe: Property Taxes Decrease, Number of Special Assessments Increase

For our cities to function effectively, taxes must be levied to support services vital to their survival. Here we examine the same hypothetical Eastpointe property discussed last week to portray what additional taxes—beyond general school, city and county operating millages—are levied to provide services to this city’s residents.

The first chart below shows that from 1998 to 2009, the total dollar amount this hypothetical property owner was paying in taxes gradually increased. This can be attributed to two factors. First, both the assessed and taxable value of the property (shown in Chart 3) gradually increased during that time, meaning more property tax revenue for local governments. Second, voters approved at least one new major tax levy during that time. This major tax was approved in 2005 and allowed the city to collect a special levy of up to 7 mills for public safety. For this hypothetical household, that levy equaled $327.94 in 2005. In contrast, a decade later, that same special levy brought in $219.08. The decline was due to the fact that the taxable value of the property plummeted, along with the assessed value, in the wake of the Great Recession.

As shown in Chart 1, the amount of taxes this hypothetical property owner paid peaked in 2009 ($2,432.30), which corresponded with the peak taxable value of this home ($53,599). The subsequent decline in tax bills occurred despite new service assessments approved by Macomb County voters. For example, it was in December of 2008 when the regional millage for the Detroit Zoo began to appear on the tax bills for this property, which by then had a taxable value of $51,340.41, costing the homeowner $5.13. Tax data from the City of Eastpointe also shows that this new assessment was much lower than existing county assessments such as the Huron-Clinton Metroparks millage, costing this hypothetical property owner $11.01 in 2009,and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transit (SMART) millage, which cost the homeowner $30.29 that year. Chart 2 below presents a timeline of the changes in county-wide and city millages that affected Eastpointe taxpayers.

Chart 1

**(Note-all taxes on the Eastpointe tax bill are included in the graph above)

Chart 2: Timeline of Eastpointe, Macomb County Millages and Increased Millage Renewals

1995

  • Suburban Mobility Area Transit Authority (SMART): 1 mill (quadrennial countywide renewals approved at varying rates; the most recent was narrowly approved in 2018)

2005

  • Eastpointe Public Safety: 7 mills (part of general city operating millage starting in 2016)

2008

  • Detroit Zoo: 0.1 mill (2008-present; renewal approved in 2016)
  • Macomb County Veteran Millage: 0.4 mills (2008-present; increase approved in 2016)

2011

  • Recreation Authority of Roseville and Eastpointe: 1 millage  (2011-Present)

2012

  • Detroit Institute of Arts: 0.2 mills (2012-2022; renewal question on March 2020 ballot)

2015

  • South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority (SMORSA): 14 mills (2015-present)

**The Huron Clinton Metropark Authority millage has been levied since the 1940s***

Chart 3

The trend of decreased property values and the addition of special assessments to tax bills continued in the wake of the Great Recession. In 2011, residents in Eastpointe and Roseville approved a 1-mill levy to fund the newly created Recreational Authority of Roseville and Eastpointe (RARE). Later, voters in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties approved a 10-year, 1 mill tax for the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), which appeared on tax bills in December of 2012. The largest increase came in 2015, when Eastpointe and Hazel Park voters approved the creation of the South Macomb Oakland Regional Services Authority (SMORSA), to provide a new revenue source for public safety services in both cities; this regional authority levies 14 mills annually. Macomb County voters also approved a 0.069 mill veterans millage in 2016, a slight increase from an earlier 0.04 millage rate.  In addition, residents of Eastpointe have regularly renewed a millage to support their local library.

Between 1998 and 2019, the timeline for the data in this post, the amount in taxes paid reached a high in 2009 at $2,432.30 (when the taxable value of the property was at its highest) and a low in 2014 at $1,563.50 (when the taxable value was at its lowest). Due to the limitations of Michigan’s Proposal A, which only allows annual taxable value increases of 5 percent or the rate of inflation (unless the property is sold), the taxable value of this hypothetical property rose only about 7.4 percent over the next five years (2015-19). However, due to these new assessments, the hypothetical property owner paid about 38 percent more in total property tax during that timeframe—roughly equal to the rate of the home’s assessed value increase.

Eastpointe’s case reveals that local governments have had some success in combating the fiscal consequences of the decline of general operating tax revenue with voter-approved special assessments for the county-level service authorities, and especially with SMORSA. Voter support for these services has been there in recent years, but it remains to be seen whether it will persist in the coming years.

This year, property owners across Macomb County may see some additional changes to their tax bills. In March, the DIA will ask voters to renew a 10 year, 1 mill tax renewal; if voted down in any particular county, the DIA assessment in that county will fall off the tax rolls in 2022. Voters will also be asked to approve a 1.9, 10-year millage on the March ballot to support classroom operations through the Macomb Intermediate School District (MISD); this proposed millage is different from the general operating millages currently levied by the MISD and local school districts.  Later, in August, Macomb County voters will also be asked to approve a millage for a yet to be determined amount and length to support either building a new county jail or renovating the current one. The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) may also be considering a millage proposal in 2020; although at this time it appears Macomb County voters will not be asked to support the proposal to support this.

Eastpointe: Property Values Rise as Taxable Values Inch Up

This post is the first of many that will demonstrate the difference between the taxable and assessed values in communities throughout Southeastern Michigan and explain the various taxes levied in these communities and their use. We will highlight at least one community in each county in the region and this post discusses Eastpointe in Macomb County. Eastpointe, formerly known as East Detroit, has a population of about 32,000, a median income of about $46,000 and a median home value of $64,700, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The chart below shows the taxable value and assessed value of a hypothetical Eastpointe home, beginning in July of 1998 through December of 2019. The taxable value is the value used to calculate a property’s taxes, and each year it can only increase by 5 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less. This number may be equal to the property’s state equalized, or assessed value, but not more than those values. Such limits on tax growth, or lack thereof, is a result of Proposal A, a state constitutional amendment approved by voter referendum in 1994. The assessed value of a property, or the state equalized valued (SEV), is usually about half of a property’s true cash value, and the true cash value is the fair market value of the property.

In 1998 the taxable value of the Eastpointe property examined was $40,000 and the assessed value was $50,000. In July of 2007 the assessed value of the property peaked at $83,252 but the taxable value was only at $50,186. By 2008 the Great Recession hit Southeastern Michigan and both the assessed values and taxable values of properties began to decline. Between July of 2007 and July of 2010 the assessed value decreased from $83,252 to $40,700, or more than 50 percent ($40,000). The annual declines continued after the recession, and the assessed value of the property reached its lowest point in July of 2014 at $34,641, a nearly 60% decline from its peak. Since July of 2014 the assessed value of the property has increased to $47,840.

As noted, the taxable value of the property was $40,000 in July of 1998, but it did not increase nearly as much as the assessed value did, because it cannot rise more than the rate of inflation or 5 percent from year-to-year. As a result, the taxable value of the property did not peak until July of 2009 ($53,599). A year later though, in July of 2010, the taxable value plummeted to $39,749. A property’s taxable value can decrease in such a way if there is a physical loss to the property and/or if the property is sold in the previous tax year. The Great Recession began in 2008 and by 2010 the taxable value of properties were on the decline, ultimately affecting governmental budgets, and services. In July of 2013 the taxable value of this Eastpointe property reached its low point at $30,804. Since then the taxable value of the property has only increased to $33,095.

Due to economic trends and the way taxable values and assessed values are calculated under Proposal A of, the assessed value of a property is nearly always higher than the taxable value. For this specific property, the only time the taxable value and assessed value were nearly the same was in July of 2009, when the taxable value was $39,749 and the assessed value was $40,700. In addition, while the gap between the two values has not been nearly as large as it was prior to the recession, since 2016 that gap has been widening.

As noted earlier, our various forms of government rely on property taxes to function, primarily our local governments (municipalities and school districts). The chart above shows that just because the local economy is recovering since the Great Recession, the budgets of local governments are not necessarily reaping the benefits. According to a recent report by the Michigan Municipal League, 173 cities in Michigan have experienced a 2 percent or less revenue growth in the last 15 years and an additional 52 have experienced a budget growth of 3 percent or more. For Eastpointe, according to the a recent report released by the Michigan Municipal League, the total revenue for the city in 2002 was $22.3 million, and in 2017 it was $25.8 million. While the total revenue for Eastpointe has increased by 16 percent the revenue generated by property and income taxes declined by 23 percent. However, while the effects of limited property tax have negatively affected municipalities across the state, the slow growth of such taxes has benefitted for the property owners. According to a September 2018 Detroit Free Press article while income growth in the state has increased since the last recession, household incomes prior to the recession have not yet been recouped. Since incomes are also recovering at a slower rate, it can be viewed that the slow growth rate of property tax revenue is allowing property owners to better stay afloat economically.

It should be noted though that a, at least in Southeastern Michigan, local tax bills have become gradually more complicated as voters approve additional tax levies, to help make up for the loss in revenue as a result of the recession, and the loss in revenue due to the limited growth of taxable values. Next week we will examine the various taxes levied for this hypothetical Eastpointe property, including what they are for, what additional ones have been added over time and how the overall tax amount for the property has either increased, or decreased, over time.

Alcohol Causes Most Traffic Deaths in Southeastern Michigan, Distracted Driving Causes Most Injuries

Traffic fatalities in Michigan totaled just under 1,000 in 2018, a number that officials from the Michigan State Police said is too high. However, that number was below the 2016 and 2017 traffic fatality numbers which rose above 1,000. Below we examine the number of traffic fatalities and injuries in Southeastern Michigan, along with the number of fatalities and injuries related to alcohol, distracted driving and drugs. As the charts show, of the factors examined, alcohol is the largest contributor to traffic fatalities in the region.  

Wayne County, which is also the largest county in the state, had the highest number of traffic fatalities at 164, 63 of which were alcohol related. Distracted driving contributed to 6 of the164 deaths and drugs contributed to 38. Oakland and Macomb counties had the second and third highest number of traffic fatalities in the region at 54 and 53. In Oakland County, of the 54 traffic fatalities, 13 were alcohol related, 3 were related to distracted driving and 8 were related to drugs. For Macomb County, alcohol contributed to 18 of the 53 traffic deaths and distracted driving contributed to 3 of the deaths; there were not any drug related traffic deaths.

When looking at the percentage of alcohol related traffic deaths compared to the total number of traffic deaths, Monroe County had the highest rate. Of the 29 traffic deaths in Monroe County in 2018, 48 percent of them (14) were alcohol related. St. Clair County had the lowest percentage at 6 percent. In 2018 there were 16 traffic deaths in St. Clair County and 1 was alcohol related. With those two exceptions, the percentage of alcohol related traffic deaths ranges between 24 and 38 percent.

Of the other two factors, drugs contributed more to traffic fatalities than distracted driving.

Injuries related to vehicle accidents are higher than fatalities and while Wayne, Oakland and Macomb still had the highest numbers in the region, the data shows that distracted driving was reported to be the largest contributor of the factors examined. Overall, data indicated that distracted driving contributed to an average of 10 percent of the traffic related injuries in Southeastern Michigan in 2018. In Macomb C, Monroe and Washtenaw counties distracted driving contributed to 11 percent of the traffic related injuries and in Wayne County distracted driving contributed to 7 percent.

 Although Wayne County had the lowest percentage of distracted driving related traffic injuries in the region, it had the highest number at 1,082 (there were 16,578 total injuries). Alcohol was related to 897 traffic injuries in Wayne County and drugs were related to 281 injuries. In Oakland County there were 10,105 total traffic related injuries, 572 of which were alcohol related, 1,013 of which were related to distracted driving and 199 of which were related to drugs. In Macomb County there were 7,360 traffic related injuries, 391 of which were related to alcohol, 813 of which were related to distracted driving, and none of which were related to drugs. And, while Macomb County did not report any drug related traffic injuries in 2018, St. Clair County was the only county in the region where there were more drug related traffic injuries than alcohol or distracted driving injuries. In 2018 there were 931 traffic injuries in St. Clair County, 122 of which were related to drugs. 

While the full 2019 Michigan State Police Report on traffic fatalities and injuries has not been released, officials maintain that they continue to strive for fewer than 1,000 fatalities each year. Additionally, officials have said they believe the lower 2018 number is related to additional efforts made to educate drivers and stricter enforcement. The 2019 numbers will be released in March, and at that time we will examine the new data and compare it to historical data.

Economic Indicators: Industrial Areas Seeing Increase in Leasing

In October of 2019 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 3.5, the same as it was for the month of September, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of  Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for October of 2018 was only slightly higher than it was this year in October, 3.7.

In October of 2019 Detroit’s unemployment rate was 7.8 percent.  That Detroit unemployment rate was 0.7 points lower in October of 2019 from the previous month. Also, the October 2019 unemployment rate for Detroit was 1.5 points lower from the previous year. In October of 2018 it was 9.3 percent.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for October of 2018 and 2019. In October of 2019 Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.5. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.5.

Between October of 2018 and 2019 each county in the region had a lower unemployment rate in 2019 than the previous year; the county with the largest decrease was Macomb County. In October of 2018 the unemployment rate in Macomb County was 4.1 and in October of 2019 it decreased to 3. Also, Macomb, Livingston, Monroe and Washtenaw counties all had unemployment rates at 3 percent or lower while St. Clair and Wayne counties had unemployment rates at 4.1 and 4.5, respectively.

The availability of industrial spaces is another aspect of an area’s financial health and below is information from the quarterly reports of Cushman and Wakefield, a global real estate firm, which produces information related to Metro-Detroit. According to the company, leasing of industrial spaces in the third quarter of 2019 is up from the second quarter, with the Airport area having the strongest increase by landing companies such as DSV and Crane World Wide Logistics with their lease renewals. Additionally, the overall vacancy rate in the Metro-Detroit area is at 2.9 percent, and as shown in the first chart below the Downriver and East side areas have the lowest vacancy rates at 1.5 percent. The Southfield area has the highest vacancy rate at 5 percent.

The second chart below shows the average cost of industrial spaces in the region per square foot. There are three different types of industrial space as defined by Cushman and Wakefield and those are: manufacturing, office space and warehouse/distribution spaces. As the chart shows, office space has the highest market value, with the Southfield area having the highest cost at $14.19 per square feet. In nearly all the areas warehouse/distribution spaces has the second highest cost with Southfield again having the highest market rate at $7.15 per square foot. In the Downriver and Troy areas though manufacturing spaces have a higher market rate than the warehouse space. In Downriver, manufacturing spaces average $4.94 per square foot and warehouse spaces average $4.80 per square foot; in Troy manufacturing spaces average $7.22 per square foot and $5.60 per square foot for warehouse spaces. Troy also has the highest market value for manufacturing spaces in the region.

According to Cushman and Wakefield, there is an expectation that utilization of industrial spaces will continue to increase in 2020 meaning a continuation of low vacancy rates.

The above chart shows 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 $129,250 in September 2019; this was $800 lower than the average family dwelling price in August. The September 2019 price was an increase of $4,460 from September of 2018 and an increase of $11,650 from September of 2017, an increase of $19,470 from September of 2016 and increase of  $25,670 from September of 2015 and, finally, an increase of 
$30,910 from September of 2014.

Revenue Sharing for Michigan Counties Remains Stagnant

The State of Michigan has consistently disinvested in local government by providing less and less in revenue sharing. Cities, townships, villages and counties all rely on this funding to address there budget needs. But, since 2002 the State has withheld more than $8 billion. We have discussed the loss of revenue sharing-both constitutional and statutory-for the local municipalities, however we have not explored revenue sharing at the county level. Unlike cities, townships and villages, counties do not receive constitutional revenue sharing but rather only statutory revenue sharing. The chart below shows data from the Department of Treasury, which reported on the amount of revenue sharing each county received since 2013. The 2020 number below is the expected amount each county is to receive for fiscal year 2020.

According to the State Revenue Sharing Act of 1971 counties are to receive between 21 and 25 percent of sales tax revenue at the 4 percent rate. That changed for a short period of time when in Fiscal Year 2004-05 revenue sharing payments to counties were temporarily suspended. At that time counties were required to create a reserve fund with their own general fund dollars; counties were then allowed to withdrawal funds in lieu of the state revenue sharing funds that were not being dispersed, according to the Senate Fiscal Agency. Once a county exhausted its reserve fund then it could again become eligible for state revenue sharing funds. To add to that, in 2013 counties also became eligible for County Incentive Program Funds; 20 percent of a counties revenue sharing was based on eligibility in this program. These funds are allocated if a county meets certain transparency and accountability standards set by the State.

As the chart shows above, there has not been a serious increase in county revenue sharing since 2015, and between 2014 and 2015 Wayne County received the largest increase of about $10 million. This increase did not come from the County Incentive Program Funds, which accounted for about $10 million in 2014 and 2015, but from its statutory funding. In 2014 Wayne County received about $40 million in revenue sharing and in 2015 that increased to about $50 million. For Fiscal Year 2020 Wayne County it was proposed Wayne County receive about $52 million in revenue sharing, a small increase from its $50 million appropriation in 2015. In 2020 Wayne County’s revenue sharing payment is to be eligible to be $42 million from statutory funding and $10 million from the County Incentive Program. 

Another item to note is how Oakland County did not receive revenue sharing in 2013 and 2014. According to the data Oakland County was not eligible for any type of revenue sharing funding in either year. Although no specific information was available as to why, it could have been that the County used its reserve funds by 2013 and was not eligible for restored funding from the State until 2015.

One of the components of revenue sharing formulas is population, which is reflected in the amount of funding each county received in the chart above. Wayne County has the largest population, which is why it has consistently received the highest amount of funding and counties like Monroe and St. Clair or more rural with more lower populations and lower funding amounts.

Overall, the chart above show how revenue sharing for counties in Southeastern Michigan (and at a greater level, across the state) has remained stagnant for several years. The stagnation, and loss, of revenue sharing funds directly impacts that services a county provides. According to the Michigan Association of Counties, counties have lost $2.4 billion in revenue sharing funds. Additionally, in 2019, cities, townships and villages received more than $1 billion total in both constitutional and statutory revenue sharing funds and counties received $221 million in statutory funding. We will also look

Fertility Rates in Michigan Continue to Decline

Fertility rates in the United States and in Michigan have been steadily declining. According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, since the year 2000 fertility rates in the U.S. peaked at 69.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2007. Since then the rates have continued to fall. Between 2011 and 2016 the fertility rate hovered between 63.2 and 62 before dropping to 60.3 in 2017 and 59.5 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age in 2018. In Michigan, the fertility rate has consistently been lower than that of the U.S., but it too has been on the decline. Since the year 2000 the fertility rate peaked in 2000 at 63 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Up until 2009 the fertility rate fluctuated between about 62 and 60.5, then in 2009 the rate dropped to 58.8 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age. Between 2013 and 2016 the fertility rate again increased to about 60 births per 1,000 women of child bearing age  before again dropping to 59.5 in 2017 and 58.5 in 2018. In raw numbers, in 2018 there were 110,293 births in Michigan, the lowest number since 1941.

According to a recent New York Times article, fertility rates tend to decrease with economic downturns. This happened with the Great Depression and then again with the Great Recession in 2008. However, while fertility rates rebounded following the Great Depression this has yet to happen following the recent recession. Stable fertility rates are important as they help ensure there will be a healthy workforce to keep the economy moving and to care for the elderly populations.

Below is a chart detailing the fertility rates for all of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan in 2018, along with the rate for the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit. The only county to have a higher fertility rate than the State was Wayne County. In 2018 the fertility rate for Michigan was 58.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44 and for Wayne County the fertility rate was 66.2; the City of Detroit had a fertility rate of 70.2. Washtenaw County had the lowest fertility rate at 40.5 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. One possibility for the low fertility rate in Washtenaw County is the fact that the county is home to the University of Michigan. With such a high college population, where the typical age is concentrated in the lower 20s, it is quite possible that the fact that fewer women in their 20s are having children contributed to the county’s low fertility rate.

In addition to publishing fertility rate data by county, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services also publishes it by race. Below is the data for the year 2018 by county for white women. The fertility rate for white women in Michigan in 2018 was 55.2 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, and Wayne and St. Clair counties were the only two in the region with higher fertility rates. Wayne County had a fertility rate of 58.7 in 2018 and in St. Clair County the fertility rate for white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.8. White women in the City of Detroit also had a fertility rate higher than the state; Detroit’s fertility rate per 1,000 white women between the ages of 15 and 44 was 57.9.

The fertility rate for black women in 2018 in Michigan was 67.6 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44. Again, there was a higher fertility rate for black women in Wayne and St. Clair counties than at the state level; those rates were 71 and 70.7, respectively. The City of Detroit also had a higher fertility rate than the state at 69.2. A fertility rate was not available for Livingston County.

It should also be noted that the fertility rate for black women in the State of Michigan and across the counties in Southeastern Michigan was higher than the fertility rates for white women in the region and at the state level.

As fertility rates decline it is also important to understand that there seems to be a shift in the age women are choosing to have children. According to the same New York Times article, at the national level, fertility rates have declined the most among teenage women; the fertility rate for teenagers has declined 70 percent since 2001. Women in their 20s are also having fewer children, despite this age group traditionally having the highest fertility rate. In 2016 it was women in their early 30s who had the highest fertility rate. By 2018, the only age group that experienced an increase in fertility rates was women in their late 30s and early 40s.  Also, according to the article, more than half the women in the U.S. who had children in their 30s had a college degree; this was more than the amount of women in their 20s with children and college degrees. There is a belief that women are waiting longer to have children to ensure their financial stability, career trajectory and that they have enough resources to provide for their children.

Detroit Vacancies Decline Over Long-Term, Slow Uptick Recently in Numbers

New information on vacancies in Detroit provides a mixed picture. There were 1,490 fewer vacant Detroit properties of all kinds between September 2018 and September 2019, according to the U.S. Postal Service. However, between June 2019 and September 2019 the number of residential vacancies increased by 61 (discussed below). Overall in the month of September of 2019 there were 82,738 vacant addresses.

Although there was a decrease in the number of vacant addresses, the percentage of vacant addresses in Detroit has remained between 21 and 22 percent since June of 2011. Vacancy rates reached 20 percent in December of 2010. The peak vacancy rate in Detroit, according to U.S. Postal Service data, was in March of 2015 when it was 22.8 percent; at that time it was equivalent to 88,017 vacant addresses.

Looking backward, (we have USPS data back through 2005) the lowest vacancy rate in Detroit was in December of 2005. At that point, the rate was 10.03 percent, and that was equivalent to 38,981 vacant properties. So, overall we witnessed more than a doubling of vacancies with a gradual decline to 82,738 from a peak of 88,017.

When examining only residential vacancy rates that rate was 21.34 percent in September of 2019, which was equivalent to 74,818 vacant residential addresses. The residential vacancy rate between September of 2019 and 2018 decreased by less than 1 percent, and the total number decreased by 2,239 residential addresses. The five-year difference was a decrease of 7,230 residential vacancies. The highest residential vacancy rate was 23.5 percent in March of 2015; the lowest residential vacancy rate was in February of 2008 at 15.8 percent. Following the peak residential vacancy rate in 2015, those numbers have been on the decline.

In addition to these changes, in September of 2019 there was not a change in the number of “no stat” addresses–properties denoted by mail carriers as being either “vacant” or “no-stat.” In September of 2019 the percent of no-stat properties was 6.2 percent.  These no-stat properties are ones that carriers on urban routes mark as vacant once no resident has collected mail for 90 days. Addresses in rural areas that appear to be vacant for 90 days are labeled no-stat, as are addresses for properties that are still under construction. So, urban addresses labeled are those a carrier deems as unlikely to be occupied again any time soon. That is, both areas where property is changing to other uses and areas of severe decline may have no-stat addresses.

The maps below demonstrate both the overall Detroit address vacancy rates (including residential and business vacancy rates) by Census Tract for September 2019 (first map) and the change in vacancy rates between September 2019 and September 2018 (second map). In total, there were about 65 Census Tracts in Detroit with total vacancy rates above 35 percent. The Census Tract with the highest vacancy rate in September of 2019 was located north of I-94, between there and I-96, with a rate of 55.8 percent. There were two large clusters of Census Tracts with vacancy rates above 35 percent, one cluster was located along I-96 south and west of the Davison Freeway, and the other was located on the eastside of the city along Gratiot Avenue.

While most of the Census Tracts in the City experienced a decrease in the number of vacancies from September 2018 to September 2019, there were about 40 tracts scattered all across the city that had an increase. The Census Tract with the highest increase was located on the City’s far west side and there was an increase of 7.2 percent. The tract with the largest vacancy rate decrease was located in Southwest Detroit and there was a decrease of 11.1 percent.

In addition to the U.S. Postal Service tracking vacancy data so does the U.S. Census Bureau. The chart below shows the differences that each agency reports in vacancy rates. The Census Bureau only tracks vacant houses while the U.S. Postal Service tracks residential properties, businesses and total vacancy rates. In the chart below only residential rates are examined. As the data shows, the Census regularly has higher residential vacancy rates as compared to the U.S. Postal Service. The most recent data for the Census data (2017) shows that the City’s residential vacancy rate was 29.2 percent and that was in 2017. The Postal Service’s equivalent rate was 22.4 percent at that time. The Census data is based on a sample of about 72,000 housing units. The U.S. Postal Service data is collected by postal service workers, if a residence is deemed occupied it means it requires mail service.  It is deemed vacant if it does not require mail service. One potential reason for the difference in vacancy rates is the fact that the Census data is based on samples while the U.S. Postal Service relies on postal carrier’s actual observations of the properties. 

Production of Solid Waste Rises in Michigan

The landfills in Michigan not only hold solid waste produced from Michigan residents, but also from other states and Canada. The first chart below shows how much solid waste has been disposed of in Michigan landfills between 2008 and 2019, total. Between 2009 and 2012 the amount of waste being disposed decreased from about 49 million cubic yards in 2009 to about 44 million cubic yards in 2012. From 2013 to 2018 though the amount of waste being disposed continuously increased. In 2013 there was about 44.5 million yards of cubic waste disposed of into Michigan landfills and by 2018 that number was about 52.5 million cubic yards.

When examining the three different sources that dispose of solid waste into Michigan landfills the data shows that waste from Canada had the largest decrease between 2009 and 2012, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality. In 2009 9 million cubic yards were disposed of into Michigan landfills and 2012 that number was 6.5 cubic yards.  Between 2013 and 2018 though those numbers increased from about 7.5 million cubic yards to 9.5 cubic yards. For the amount of solid waste disposed of in Michigan from instate sources that number rose from about 35 million cubic yards in 2009 to about 40 million cubic yards. For solid waste disposal from other states that amount disposed of never increased above 2.9 million cubic yards between 2009 and 2018.

Overall, the amount of waste generated in Michigan continues to increase while import rates are decreasing, according to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality.

The chart below shows the total waste disposed in Michigan landfills from each county in Southeastern Michigan. This chart does not necessarily reflect how much waste is disposed in each county, but rather how much waste comes from each county. Wayne County had the highest amount of waste disposal at more than 11 million cubic yards in 2018; this amount was more than twice the amount of any other county in the region. Oakland County had the second highest amount of waste disposed in 2018 at about 4.3 million cubic yards. Livingston County had the lowest amount of waste disposed at about 380,000 cubic yards.

Below is a list of the landfills in Southeastern Michigan and the amount and type of waste disposed in them in 2018. Municipal and Commercial Waste (MCW) was the most common type of waste disposed of in Southeastern Michigan landfills, followed by Industrial Waste (IW).

In Southeastern Michigan there are 13 different landfills, two of which only accept Industrial Waste. The two landfills that only accept Industrial Waste are Detroit Edison Ash Disposal in St. Clair County and the DTE Monroe Power Plant in Monroe County.

Pine Tree Acres, which is a landfill operated by Waste Management in Lenox Township (Macomb County) had the largest amount of waste disposed there in 2018 at nearly 5.1 million cubic yards. Carleton Farms Landfill in Sumpter Township (Wayne County) had the second largest amount of waste disposed there at about 4 million cubic yards.

The City of Livonia accepted the least amount of waste in 2018. According to the Department of Environmental Quality the City of Livonia landfill received 2,700 cubic yards of Municipal and Commercial Waste and 1.8 yards of Industrial Waste.

Overall this post was intended to highlight where waste in Michigan, and the region comes from, what regional counties are producing the most amount of solid waste and how the production of waste in the state continues to rise. Not only does this post shed light on the production of solid waste but it should also be a conversation starter for the need of increased recycling rates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency the recycling rate in Michigan is 15 percent; the national average is 35 percent. While bottle returns in Michigan are at about a 90 percent redemption rate, according to a 2018 Bridge Magazine article, other recyclable items are not returned at nearly such a high rate. There needs to be a mindset change in the State of Michigan, and digging deeper into the data could help facilitate successful public information campaigns.

Unfortunately, data on recycling is not nearly as detailed as the information the state produces on solid waste. For example, information on what communities offer curbside recycling is not readily available, and the last measurement report on recycling in the state was published in 2016, with data from 2014.

There needs to be more information on recycling in Michigan, and the amount of solid waste disposed of in Michigan’s landfills needs to be reduced. Although waste from other states and countries is imported to Michigan landfills, an action that should also be halted, it is the rate at which solid waste in Michigan is being produced and disposed of that is increasing the greatest problem. We need to see a substantial reduction in solid waste disposal, and a parallel increase increase in recycling.  

Breast Cancer in Southeastern Michigan

The month of October is Breast Awareness Month and in 2019, according to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, it is estimated that there will be 268,600 new cases of invasive breast cancer, nationally. In addition, the foundation estimates that there will about 42,000 deaths from breast cancer in 2019. Breast cancer affects both men and women, but occurs at a much higher rate in women. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, there is an estimated 129.8 new cases of invasive breast per 100,000 women each year and in men that number is 1.2 cases per 100,000 men. Additionally, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more diagnoses of breast cancer in 2019 (9,310) than lung, colon, prostate, melanoma or bladder cancer. However, the American Cancer Society also estimates that lung, colon and pancreatic cancer have a higher mortality rate than female breast cancer.

The data shown in the maps below has been provided by the Michigan Department of Community Health and Services and was last updated in 2017. Additionally, the data focuses on women.  According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, breast cancer is the most common newly diagnosed cancer among women in Michigan. In 2017 there were about 8,160 new cases of invasive breast cancer in women in Michigan.

In 2017 St. Clair County had the highest rate of women with invasive breast cancer at 27.3 per 100,000 females, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health and Services. Wayne County had the second highest rate at 22 per 100,000 females and Oakland County had the lowest rate at 17.8 at 100,000 females. At the state level the rate for women with breast cancer was 19.2 in 2017. The only county below this rate in Southeastern Michigan was Oakland County.

Although not all women with breast cancer die from the disease, there are hundreds of deaths from the disease a year. In 2017 Wayne County had the highest number of deaths at 247 followed by Oakland County at 153 and Macomb County at 126. Regionally, Livingston County had the lowest number of deaths associated with invasive breast cancer at 18. These numbers are, generally, consistent with populations across these counties. In 2017 there was a total of 1,308 deaths associated with breast cancer across Michigan.

While breast cancer rates at the county level in Southeastern Michigan are are lower than those at the national level (129.8 cases per 100,000 women), it still causes significant number of deaths per year. Since the early 2000s the number of breast cancer deaths has declined, in large part due to increased mammogram screening. This month multiple health care organizations, such as Henry Ford, Beaumont and McLaren, are offering free mammograms to raise awareness and increase the chances of early detection. The risk of breast cancer increases with age, so as individuals grow older-particularly women- annual and regular testing becomes more and more important.

Prison Most Common Sentence for Felony Assaults

As part of the annual Michigan Department of Corrections report assaultive felony offensives are also examined to better understand what percentage of the  offenders are sentenced to either prison, jail, probation, community service or another combination. According to the data, prison sentences tended to be the most common. Monroe County had the highest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to prion at 39.6 percent. Wayne County had the second highest sentencing rate at 36.6 percent and Macomb County had the lowest rate at 27.5 percent.

For the jail category, St. Clair County had the highest sentencing rate for felony assault offenders at 38.8 percent; this was 10 percent higher than those in St. Clair County who were sentenced to prison for felony assault charges. Oakland County had the second highest at 23.3 percent. Wayne County had the lowest percentage of felony assault offenders sentenced to jail at 6 percent; the county with the second lowest sentencing rate was Monroe County at 11.7 percent.  

For a sentencing combination of jail and probation, Monroe County had the highest sentencing rate for felony assault offenders at 48.1 percent; Livingston County had the second highest rate at 44 percent. Wayne County was the only county in the region to have a jail and probation combination sentencing rate below 20 percent. According to the data, 15.1 percent of felony assault offenders in Wayne County were sentenced to a jail/probation combination.

Livingston, Monroe, Oakland and St. Clair counties all sentenced less than 5 percent of felony assault offenders to probation, with Monroe County having the lowest sentencing rate at 0.6 percent. Conversely, Wayne County had the highest probation sentencing rate at 42.3 percent, a trend we’ve seen throughout this series. Wayne County’s probation sentencing rate was nearly 20 percentage points higher than the county with the second highest rate (Washtenaw County had a rate at 24 percent).

No county in the region sentenced more than 2 percent of the felony assault offender population to community service, restitution, fines and/or costs.

Prison appears to be the most common sentencing type for felony assault offenders, except for Wayne County where nearly half the felony assault offender population was sentenced to probation.