Sewage Overflows Continue in Southeastern Michigan as Storm Severity Increases

Summer storms have brought on many issues this year, including flooding and long periods without power. Another affect of the heavy rain though is increased sewage overflow into our local rivers and lakes, which also means increased risk of contaminated waters. The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy tracks discharges by three different categories: combined sewer overflow (CSO), sanitary sewer overflow (SSO) and retention treatment basin overflow (RTB). Each of these are  discharges from a sewer system which contains untreated or partially-treated sewage. CSOs are discharges from older sewer systems designed to carry both domestic sewage and storm water, collectively referred to as combined sewage. Retention treatment basins often collect and treat this wastewater from CSOs to help avoid untreated overflows into the environment. However, they too can overflow, leading to an RTB overflow. SSOs are discharges of raw or inadequately treated sewage from municipal separate sanitary sewer systems, which are designed to carry sanitary sewage but not storm water.

Below is data on the type of overflows that have occurred in Southeastern Michigan in 2021 thus far. EGLE tracks this information and presents an annual report; the data for this post is the ongoing data for 2021 and has yet to be digested into a comprehensive report. Overall, the data shows that were have been 84 known and reported discharge events in Michigan in 2021. Of those 84, 37 have occurred in Southeastern Michigan. The charts below provide a deeper look at the type of discharge events, their locations and the responsible parties of the discharge events. 

The above data highlights a few different points, including that the Great Lakes Water Authority (GLWA) had the highest number of discharge events in 2021 thus far; CSO discharge events are the most common; the Detroit River and the Rouge River are recipients of the highest number of discharge events; and August has had the most number of discharge events this far in 2021.

Now, to further break down the data. It should come as no surprise that the GLWA has had the most number of sewage discharge events because of its size. The GLWA is a regional water authority that provides drinking water and sewer service to more than 80 communities in Southeastern Michigan. The GLWA, by way of its formation in 2015, also inherited old infrastructure, which clearly needs updating to help prevent future overflows. For example, the Conner Creek discharge event that occurred during the first major rain storm of the summer, in early July, was a result of a lack redundancies for power. This event was one of the RTB overflow events, as the Conner Creek Pump Station is a CSO basin station, meaning the facility is meant to handle sewage overflow so it doesn’t go into the waterways. However, it does happen, and so far in 2021 there have been 9 such events.

As noted, CSO events occur when the system becomes  overwhelmed by the combined sewage and untreated wastes are directly released into receiving waters, with the Detroit River and the Rouge River being the most common water in Southeastern Michigan. These CSO events are considered intentional because the system was designed to allow overflow into waterways  once capacity of the wastewater treatment plant to store more liquid or process its maximum volume is reached. There are several discharge points in Southeastern Michigan, with the GLWA operating most of them. In total, the GLWA has 9 CSO discharge locations along the Detroit and Rouge Rivers and 62 additional untreated discharge points. Of those 62 untreated discharge points, six  discharge only in the event of an emergency that jeopardizes property (i.e. wide-spread basement flooding). The remainder of the points discharge at varying frequencies. These 62 sites are responsible for about 5 percent of total combined sewer overflow discharge volume. In 2021 there have been 20 CSO events in Southeastern Michigan, 19 of which the GLWA was responsible for and all of which discharged in the Detroit or Rouge rivers.

CSO events are tied to heavy rainfall, which explains why August had the highest number of overflow events. It is predicted that these events will only increase as our climate changes.  This of course is concerning because the overflows are forms of pollutants and release hazardous materials into the environment, causing health, safety and environmental issues.

Ways to help mitigate CSOs include sewer separation, expanding CSO treatment facilities and adding retention basins and investing in green infrastructure (bioswales, rain gardens). Actions are being taken nationally and locally to help better prevent CSOs, but a total overhaul of our water and sewer infrastructure would cost billions upon billions of dollars. So far, the GLWA has invested $1.2 billion in CSO facility upgrades, and while the amount of CSOs has been reduced by 95 percent, they still occur and have long-term affects on the region.

Detroit’s Population Falls in 2020 Census, Oakland and Macomb Counties Continue to Grow

The numbers are in, and according to 2020 Decennial Census data Michigan’s overall population grew to 10,077,331, but Detroit suffered a population loss for yet another decade. According to the recently released data, Detroit’s 2020 population was recorded at 639,111, a decrease from  the 713,777 2010 Census population. The City of Detroit’s population was at one point larger than every other county’s population in the State of Michigan (1.8 million people in 1950), except for Wayne County (it is located in Wayne County. However, as the first chart below shows, that began to change in 1990 when Oakland County’s population exceeded Detroit’s. Then, in 2010, Macomb County’s population also exceeded Detroit’s population. According to the most recent Census data, Oakland County’s population was  1,274,396 and Macomb County’s population was 881,217 in 2020. Wayne County, including the City of Detroit, still has the largest population in Michigan at 1,793,561. However, Wayne County also continues to lose population, in part because of Detroit’s population loss.

Between 2010 and 2020, the City of Detroit and St. Clair and Wayne counties were the only large units of government to lose members of their population. The City of Detroit had the largest percent loss at 10.5 percent, or 74,666 people. Wayne County experienced a 1.5 percent loss (27,023) and St. Clair County experienced a 1.6 percent loss (2,657). Tax foreclosures have been cited as a reason for the Detroit’s continued population loss.  Note, however, that Detroit lost fewer people in the last decade than the previous decade–74,666 from 2010 to 2020, compared to the 201,530 population loss between 2000 and 2010.  Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said he plans to appeal the recently released Census numbers for the City, as he firmly believes they are inaccurate. Part of his reasoning? The 2020 Census accounted for 254,000 occupied households but according to DTE there are about 280,000 residential households paying electric bills. In comparing these two data points, there is a discrepancy of 25,000 occupied houses with running electricity—housing units he thinks the Census missed. 

Wayne County officials on the other hand recognize that population loss continued, but chose to see progress since the total loss between 2010 and 2020 was about 27,000 people whereas, between 2000 and 2010, the population loss was about 240,000 residents, so there has been a substantial decline in the loss. According to a recent Free Press article, part of population loss Wayne County experienced was due to the loss Detroit experienced, but that was offset by population gains in other municipalities in Wayne County. Furthermore, a large portion of the State’s population remains concentrated in Wayne County (about 1/5 of the population). 

The population loss experienced by Detroit and Wayne and St. Clair counties was likely the gain for other area counties. According to the data, Washtenaw County experienced an 8 percent population increase between 2010 and 2020 (27,467), Livingston County experienced a 7.1 percent increase (12,899), Oakland County experienced a 6 percent population increase (72,034) and Macomb County experienced a 4.8 percent increase (38,865).

In a future post we will also be looking at the population gains and losses at the municipal level in Southeastern Michigan. A few notable regional gains and losses to mention now though are:

Population Gains Above 20 Percent

•Hamtramck, where the population increased 27 percent between 2010 and 2020 (from 22,423 to 28,433)

•Salem Township, where the population increased 25 percent ( from 5,627 to 7,018);

•Oceala Township, where the population increased 23 percent (from 11,936 to 14,623);

•Lima Township, where the population increased 22 percent (from 3,307 to 4,024)

•Dundee Township, where the population increased 21 percent (from 6,759 to 8,145);

•Saline Township, where the population increased 20 percent (from 1,896 to 2,277);

•Novi Township, where the population increased 20 percent (from 55,224 to 66,243);

Population Losses Above 10 Percent

•Scio Township, where the population decreased by 13 percent between 2010 and 2020 (from 20,0081 to 17,552); •Detroit, where the population decreased by 10.5 percent (from 713,777 to 639,111).

With population changes comes changes in demographics as well. For example, in Detroit, the Hispanic white population grew to make up 9.5 percent of the City’s demographic and the Hispanic or Latino population to grew to makeup 8 percent of the population.

To fully grasp the regional and statewide population gains and losses we needed to understand just who left one area and moved to another. Migration to the suburbs, particularly to Macomb and Oakland counties by the City’s white population, is what initially triggered Detroit’s population loss in the 1950s. This population loss has continued through 2020. Demographic changes have continued through today and with the release of new Census data, Drawing Detroit will show just how Southeastern Michigan, and Michigan overall, has changed in the last decade and beyond.

Southeastern Michigan COVID Update: August 2021

The era of COVID continues, especially as we again are witnessing a case surge due to the Delta-variant. In Michigan, the level of transmission is now considered substantial, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC states there are now 71 counties that are places of “substantial” or “high” transmission: Livingston, Monroe, Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne are included in this list. A county is considered to have a substantial transmission rate if there are 50-99 cases per week per 100,000 people and/or a test positivity between 8  and 9.9 percent; all counties in Southeastern Michigan are considered substantial by the CDC, except St. Clair County. A county is considered to have a high transmission rate if there are 100 new cases per week per 100,000 residents, and/or there is a positive test rate of 10 percent or higher. Those Michigan counties that have a high transmission rate are Alpena, Branch, Charlevoix, Huron, Iosco, Kalkaska and Montmorency counties, according to the CDC.

Michigan reported 910,500 total confirmed COVID cases as of Aug. 6, 2021. Of that total 3,962 are confirmed new COVID cases from August 3,4 and 5, 2021 (the State no longer reports case numbers daily).

In Chart 1 we drill down into the number of confirmed COVID cases for Southeastern Michigan, by county and for the City of Detroit; all numbers are represented of a five-day rolling average. The five-day rolling average for the total number of COVID cases (Chart 1) reflects a smoother curve and adjusts for fluctuations in testing and/or the quality of reporting or failure to report. This chart also shows that, while the total number of COVID cases has grown overall since March 2020, there have certainly been surges. We also see that Oakland and Wayne counties continue to have the highest total number of COVID cases. Oakland County had the highest number of confirmed COVID cases at 104,354, followed by Wayne County with 104,090 new cases as of August 4, 2021. The City of Detroit had 52,394 confirmed cases.

Charts 2 and 3 provide a closer look at the number of new COVID cases over time. In Chart 2 we are reminded of the COVID case surges in fall/winter of 2020 and again in spring of 2021. However, as Chart 3 shows with a zoomed in look at the last month. New COVID case numbers are again on the rise. Oakland County had the highest number of new confirmed COVID cases on August 4, 2021 with 100, followed by Wayne County with 82 new cases and Macomb County with 56 new confirmed cases.

The daily data highlighted in these posts is from Michigan.gov/coronavirus, where data is updated daily at 3 p.m. Historical data were supplied from covidtracking.com, which republishes COVID data from the State. Additionally, the case totals do not reflect the number of people who have recovered, just those who have been infected. In June of 2020 the State changed how it reports its data on the website, making data more accurate in the long-term but more complicated to track as well. The State regularly updates older data, and as we continue to publish regular updates on COVID the State’s changes to past data many not always be reflected in our posts. The data published in this post is accurate for the day we it was received and published though.

The chart below (Chart 4) shows that Macomb County had the highest number of COVID confirmed cases per capita. According to the data released on August 6, 2021 by the State of Michigan, Macomb County had 111,540 COVID cases per million people. St. Clair County had the second highest number of confirmed cases per million people at 95,339. Washtenaw County had the lowest per capita rate at 71,278 confirmed COVID cases per million people.

While the current surge of COVID cases may not numerically appear to be as troubling as what we experienced in the spring and fall, the Delta variant is highly transmissible and a cause for both caution and concern, especially for the unvaccinated. As of last week the variant was confirmed in 40 different Michigan counties.

Gap Between Wages and Housing Affordability Grows in Southeastern Michigan

The eviction moratorium in place by the Centers for Disease Control ended July 30, and while programs funded through COVID Emergency Rental Assistance program are in place there is a deeper issue to be examined: affordable housing and a national living wage. According to data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition even if there weren’t a pandemic, the ability to obtain affordable housing and the ability to earn an hourly rate to afford housing continues to grow farther apart. In Michigan, according to the report, the average worker needs to earn $18.55 to afford a two-bedroom rental home at fair market value.

The average rule of thumb is that those who rent should spend about 30 percent of their income on their rental unit. In 2019, according to the American Community Survey, the average resident living in Wayne and Monroe counties was already living above that. According to the Census Bureau, the average percentage of gross income spent on rent in Wayne County was 32 percent and in Monroe County it was 30.7 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties were all at the 30 percent threshold (29.3%, 29.7% and 29.8%, respectively). Oakland County had the lowest percentage of gross median income spent on rent at 26.8 percent.

Further expanding on the gap between wages and access to housing, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released additional data drilling deeper into the hourly rate an individual would need to make in each county to afford a two-bedroom rental home (at fair market value) and what the current estimated hourly wage rate is for rent.

Washtenaw County has the highest housing wage rate in Southeastern Michigan at $24.31; this is the hourly amount an individual would need to make to afford a two-bedroom rental there. However, the current estimated hourly renter wage in Washtenaw County is $16.92; that is a $7.39 wage gap between current wage conditions and what is needed for local affordable housing security.

Livingston County has the largest gap between the average estimated renter wage and the hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home at fair market value; that gap is $8.51. The current hourly renter wage in Livingston County is $12.26 and the amount needed to secure a two-bedroom home is $20.77.

Monroe County has lowest hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home at $17.29 and the current estimated average hourly renter wage is $12.18, meaning there is a $5.11 gap.

The smallest gap between the hourly wage needed to secure a two-bedroom home and the current estimated average hourly renter wage is in Oakland County; that gap is $1.39. In Oakland County the average estimated current hourly renter wage is $18.78 and the hourly wage needed for a two-bedroom rental home is $20.17.

As the data shows, each county in Southeastern Michigan (and throughout the state), has a gap between the wages individuals earn and what it costs to obtain a home on the rental market. This gap means that many need to work more than 40 hours a week, sometimes closer to two full-time jobs.

In order to bridge this gap many changes need to occur; the two glaring ones would be additional affordable housing options added to the market and an increase in the minimum wage. The minimum wage in Michigan is $9.45, and it was not increased to $9.87 in 2021 because the average unemployment rate for 2020 was more than 8.5 percent. However, there have been pushes both nationally and state-wide to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour—but that has yet to widely come to fruition. In 2019 though Oakland County did adopt a $15 an hour minimum wage for County employees and Oak Park recently did the same for City employees. As businesses continue to try to attract and retain employees we are also seeing increases in the wages they are offering. However, while individual business and local governments implement living wages policies nothing is guaranteed without broader policies.

A Look At Our Fathers

We may have just celebrated Father’s Day, but year-round dads work and take care of their children. For many, this is reflective in a more traditional, nuclear setting but there are thousands of instances where the dad is the sole caretaker–in more ways than one. 

According to the 2019 American Community Survey, information on the percentage of children living with only their father is categorized by those 6 years of age and under and then those between the ages of 7-17. Throughout Southeastern Michigan less than 5 percent of children 6 years of age or younger in each county live solely with their father. According to the data, in 2019 Macomb County had the highest percentage of children 6 years of age or younger only living with their father at 3.4 percent, followed by Monroe County where 3.2 percent of children 6 years of age and younger lived with only their father. In St. Clair and Wayne counties 3 percent of children 6 years of age and younger lived with their father. For those between the ages of 7 and 17, Macomb County again had the highest percentage of children living with only their father at 6.8 percent. Wayne County had the second highest percentage of children living with only their father at 6.4 percent and Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children between the ages of 7-17 living with only their father at 3.3 percent.

In addition to tracking data on the percentage of children living with only their father, the Census also tracks how many children live in a home with both a mother and father, but where only the father works. For the 6 years of age and younger group, Monroe County had the highest percentage of married fathers being the sole income providers for the family at 9.5 percent, followed by Macomb County at 9.2 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of married fathers with children 6 years of age or younger who were the sole income providers at 5.8 percent. For the 7-17 age range, Livingston County had the highest percentage of children of married fathers being the sole income providers for the family at 15.4 percent, followed by Macomb County at 13.7 percent. 

While this post shows data on fathers that is not traditionally seen, in researching data on fathers it was also discovered that data sets on them are not as extensive as on mothers. None-the-less, fathers deserve thanks year-round, whether they are serving as the sole income provider for a home, supporting their family with a partner or raising children on their own. 

Rental Prices in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Rise

The rental market in Southeastern Michigan is mirroring that of the home-buying market. With low supply and rising prices, being further driven up by high demand, many are finding it difficult to secure a rental home, especially one they can afford, according to various news sources. 

According to Re/MAX of Southeastern Michigan, there are fewer rental units on the market than homes for sale. There were 2,480 single-family homes for rent from January through April, across 18 counties in central and southeastern Michigan, according to Realcomp. That number has decreased for two consecutive years, with 3,090 rental homes being available the same period in 2020, and 3,514 through the same period in 2019. 

Below shows the percentage of vacant rental units available in 2019 by county in Southeastern Michigan, according to the American Community Survey. As shown, Oakland County had the highest percentage of vacant rental units at 23.8 percent, followed by Macomb County at 22.9 percent. St. Clair County had the lowest available rental stock at 7.3 percent. As mentioned above though, available rental stock across the region, and state, has decreased, increasing demand and making it more difficult and competitive for individuals to find rental units. According to Re/MAX, another factor driving low rental unit stock is that would-be homebuyers are remaining in rentals longer due to the low stock and high price of homes for sale.

According to a recent Detroit News article, rental prices have increased upwards of 20 percent in the last year. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, Washtenaw County had the highest median gross rent at $1,114, followed by Oakland County with a gross median rent of $1,040 and Livingston County with a gross median rent of $1,053. These were the only area counties with gross median rents above $1,000 but with rental prices increasing upwards of 20 percent throughout the region, others, such as Macomb County (2019 median rent of $962) will be above that threshold. 

According to the Detroit News, which used ApartmentGuide.com as a source, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Detroit rose from $1,332 to $1,516 between April 2020 and April 2021, and a two-bedroom apartment in Detroit rose from $1,764 to $2,319. In Farmington Hills, which is also in Wayne County, the average rent for a one-bedroom increased from $1,134 to $1,289 from April 2020 to April 2021, and a two-bedroom increased from $1,442 to $1,655. The City of Troy experienced the largest year-to-year change at 63.3 percent, according to the data, while Southfield experienced a 33 percent change and Rochester Hills experienced a 30 percent change. Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ypsilanti, all college towns, experienced decreases in average rental prices between 2020-2021, likely due to the decreased numbers of students needing housing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With increased rental unit pricing comes the concern of affordability. The average rule of thumb is that those who rent should spend about 30 percent of their income on their rental unit. In 2019, according to the American Community Survey, the average resident living in Wayne and Monroe counties was already living above that. According to the data, the average percentage of gross income spent on rent in Wayne County was 32 percent and in Monroe County it was 30.7 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties were all at the 30 percent threshold (29.3%, 29.7% and 29.8%, respectively). Oakland County had the lowest percentage of gross median income spent on rent at 26.8 percent.

Increasing rental prices, driven by lack of supply, will affect thousands of people throughout the region. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, in Wayne County, 38 percent of occupied housing units in the county were occupied by renters. In Washtenaw County that percentage was 39, but it likely decreased in 2020 and 2021 due to the lack of students on college campuses because of the pandemic. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of occupied housing units occupied by renters at 15; all other counties in the region had percentages above 20.

The low rental stock and increase of rental prices is now drawing even greater concern as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on some evictions is set to end June 30. According to Michigan’s 2-1-1 service, which is a United Way service that connects individuals with various agencies to provide assistance, 21,318 inquiries were made between March 5, 2020 and June 9, 2021 about rental assistance. Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, about 250,000 Michigan residents said they were behind on rent or mortgage payments as of April 26, 2021.  In March of this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved allocating about $282 million in federal rental aid, $220 million of which is for emergency rental assistance. Michigan also received $660 million in rent aid from Congress in December of 2020, but how it can be allocated must be approved by the Michigan legislature. There may also be another round of funding of about $223 million to come to Michigan from the federal government, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Number of Michigan Concealed Pistol Licenses Continues to Rise

As of June 1, 2021 there were 751,102 approved Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs) in Michigan, a number that has been increasing over the years. Of that total, 46 percent of those license holders reside in Southeastern Michigan. Within Southeastern Michigan, Wayne County has the highest number of CPL holders at 120,164, followed by Oakland and Macomb counties (89,596 and 72,515, respectively).

In order to obtain a CPL a Michigan resident must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted into the United States
  • Be a legal resident of Michigan and reside in Michigan for at least six months immediately prior to application.
  • Not have been convicted of various crimes
  • Meet certain requirements regarding mental illness
  • Complete a CPL class

To view the entire criteria list click here

In 2016 County Gun Boards were eliminated; these bodies had the power to deny an individual a CPL if the license was deemed detrimental to the applicant or others. Now, County Clerks and the Michigan State Police process concealed weapon applications. As noted earlier, since then the number of CPLs in Michigan has increased. As of December 2016 there were 497,016 active CPLs in Michigan and now there are 751,102.

The cost of the CPL application process varies between counties (specifically County Clerk departments) and according to the Michigan State Police, in Southeastern Michigan it cost Washtenaw County the most, on average, to process an application at $36.08. Livingston County had the lowest average cost at $14.81. 

The data used for this post is from the Michigan State Police.

A Look Into Southeastern Michigan’s Housing Price Spike

It’s no secret that over the last year-and-a-half the housing market has experienced an increase in the number of sales and prices and a decrease in stock. At a time when economic stability has been uncertain for hundreds of thousands, an obvious question is—what is driving the housing market up? As the data sets below show there are several factors behind rising sales and decreasing housing stock.

First, understanding how the average price of a single-dwelling unit has changed over the last several years is important in understanding how housing prices got to where they are today. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $148,500 in February of 2021; this was $1,500 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2021 price was an increase of $14,070 from February of 2020 (over a 10 percent increase) and $49,430 from February of 2014. Home prices have continued to increase year-after-year but the recent average price of single-family dwellings sold in the Metro-Detroit area has increased at a higher rate than in previous years.

One reason behind the increased cost of a single family dwelling unit is the supply. Simply put, the availability is not meeting the demand. According to a RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan housing report from March, the supply of inventory for available homes is at less than a month. A balanced housing market has six months supply of inventory, according to RE/MAX. According to the National Association of Realtors a months supply of inventory means the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes to sell if no other homes were to hit the market.

One way to increase inventory is to build more homes. However, this takes time and also costs money. According to the Federal Reserve of Economic Data there were 942 housing starts in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area as of March 1, 2021; on March 1, 2020 there were 452 housing starts. While the data shows an increase in housing starts since 2020, housing starts have not reached the peak levels of 2017 (1,308 on May 1, 2017). In order to move housing starts along there needs to several things, including demand, enough workers to meet demand, and supplies.

Lumber is a large component in building homes, and completing remodels. With a higher demand for new housing starts and remodels, the price of lumber has increased nationally. According to the National Association of Home Building, lumber prices have increased by more than 300 percent since April 2020; this has caused the average price of a new single-family home to increase by nearly $36,000.

The chart below shows an overview of how framing lumber prices have fluctuated, and grown, in recent months. As of May 14, 2021 the average price of lumber per thousand board feet was about $1,500; in early November of 2020 the price was recorded at just under $600. The information is sourced each week using the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite which is comprised using prices from the highest volume-producing regions of the U.S. and Canada.

Lumber is a large component in building homes, and completing remodels. With a higher demand for new housing starts and remodels, the price of lumber has increased nationally. According to the National Association of Home Building, lumber prices have increased by more than 300 percent since April 2020; this has caused the average price of a new single-family home to increase by nearly $36,000.

The chart below shows an overview of how framing lumber prices have fluctuated, and grown, in recent months. As of May 14, 2021 the average price of lumber per thousand board feet was about $1,500; in early November of 2020 the price was recorded at just under $600. The information is sourced each week using the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite which is comprised using prices from the highest volume-producing regions of the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to supply and demand of housing stock and materials, low mortgage rates are also behind an increase in home sales. According to the National Association of Home Builders the average annual rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage in April 2021 was 3.15 percent; the average annual rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage in April 2021 was 2.47 percent. The data shown below goes back to February of 2015 and in that time frame rates have never been as low as they have been within the last year. While the April rates are slightly up from the December 2020 rates, overall mortgage rates have been decreasing since December of 2018.

Work from Home Capabilities Continue to Drive Movement to the Metro-Detroit Suburbs

Suburbs are “in” again, according to recent research highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, after nearly a decade of increased migration to and interest in cities. However, while the pandemic has changed how many of us live, and plan to live, Census data shows that in Southeastern Michigan there has been a trend for some time of people leaving the more heavily populated areas and moving to the less dense areas, and increasing density there.

In 2019 Wayne County had the highest population density at 2,872 people per square mile. Detroit is located in Wayne County and in 2019 it had a population density of 4,689 per square mile, which remains the highest in the state despite decades of decline. As both the second and third map below show migration out of Wayne County has been the highest in the region since at least 2010. Between 2019 and 2014 there was a 1.8 percent decline in the population density of Wayne County and between 2010 and 2019 the total decline came in at 6 percent. Wayne County had a population of 1.75 million people in 2019 as compared to 1.77 million in 2014.

Washtenaw County, which had a population density of 520 people per square mile in 2019, experienced the highest percentage increase in population density between 2014-2019 and 2010-2019. According to Census data, between 2014-2019 there was a 4.3 percent increase in population density and between 2010-2019 there was a 6.7 percent increase. In 2019 Washtenaw County had a population of 367,601.

In Southeastern Michigan, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties all had the highest population densities at 2,872, 1,814 and 1,475, respectively. While Wayne County has lost population in recent years, Macomb and Oakland counties gained it, and with that came an increase in density. Between 2010-2019 Macomb County experienced a 3.9 percent increase in its population density and Oakland County experienced a 4.4 percent increase. Aside from Washtenaw County, Livingston County was the only other one to experience an increase; between 2010-2019 Livingston County experienced a 3.6 percent increase in population density. Monroe and St. Clair counties remain the least densely populated and have lost density since 2010 (a smaller decrease than Wayne County).

According to HomeSnacks.com, which ranks the fastest growing communities based on Census data, the following places have experienced the highest percentage of population growth since 2010 in Michigan:

  • Rockford
  • Novi
  • Coldwater
  • Auburn Hills
  • East Grand Rapids
  • Chelsea
  • New Baltimore
  • Milan
  • Kentwood
  • Rochester

Of these 10 communities, three are  in Oakland County (Novi, Rochester, Auburn Hills), one is in Macomb County (New Baltimore) and two are in Washtenaw County (Chelsea and Milan); none are in Wayne, Washtenaw or Monroe counties, all of which have been losing residents.

So, while Southeastern Michigan has been experiencing the migration of residents out of the Detroit for sometime, it is expected to continue. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the pandemic has caused the largest cities in the country to experience an exodus of residents, in part, due to an increased accessibility of remote work. According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of US Post Service data and Census data, the Midwest, Northeast and West all lost residents since the pandemic began while the South gained residents.

A shift in migration also means there will be, eventually, a shift in the fiscal health of cities and regions. In areas where people are leaving, tax revenue will also depart. What this could mean for places like Detroit and Michigan has yet to remain seen. However, with the continued out-migration of residents from Michigan over the last decade we do know that the State is losing another Congressional seat.

Certain Detroit Crime Incidents Decrease in 2020

The Detroit Police Department publishes public data on the number of crime incidents that occur by type of crime, precinct and year on its open data portal. The information provided below has been retrieved from this data portal and highlights the number of incidents, not victim counts, for each Detroit precinct in 2019 and 2020. The crimes reported on in this post are:

•Assault: attempt to cause physical injury to another person;

•Aggravated assault: assault, without a weapon, that results in a serious or aggravated injury;

•Homicide: the killing of another person, whether intentional or not;

•Sexual assault: forcing or coercing an individual to engage in any non-consensual sexual contact or sexual penetration.

The number of reported incidents for each type of crime varies across the precincts but one data piece stands out amongst all four types of crime: there was a decrease in reported incidents between 2019 and 2020. In both 2019 and 2020 the highest number of reported incidents was under the assault category, followed by the aggravated assault category and then sexual assaults and homicides.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported 17,233 assault incidents and in 2020 it reported 12,534 assault incidents. Of the 11 precincts, Precinct 8 had the highest number of assault incidents in both 2019 and 2020. In 2019 there were 2,505 assault incidents reported in Precinct 8 and 1,660 in 2020. Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported assault incidents in 2019 at 913 and Precinct 7 had the lowest number of assault incidents in 2020 at 657.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported a total of 7,708 aggravated assault incidents and in 2020 a lower number of 7,311 incidents was reported. In both 2019 and 2020 Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported aggravated assault incidents at 1,210 and 1,107, respectively. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported incidents in 2019 and 2020 at 421 and 315, respectively. 

Between 2019 and 2020 there was a decrease in the number of reported homicides in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2019 there were 276 reported homicides and in 2020 there were 244. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported homicides in both 2019 and 2020 at 42 each year. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported homicides in 2019 and 2020 at 8 and 12, respectively.

In 2019 there were 817 reported sexual assault incidents in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2020 467 sexual assault incidents were reported. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported incidents in 2019 at 131; this was the only precinct in 2019 and 2020 with more than 100 sexual assault incident reports. In 2020 Precinct 8 had the highest number of incidents reported at 57. In 2019 Precinct 7 had the lowest number of reported sexual assault incidents at 40 and Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported incidents at 27 in 2020.

Recent 2019 FBI data highlights how crime rates across the country continued to increase from 2018 to 2019. For example, in Detroit, shootings and homicides rose for the second-straight year, by 53 percent and 19 percent, respectively. And, while national FBI crime data helps paint a broad picture on crime trends, the 2020 data provided by Detroit’s open data portal shows that in 2020 there was a decrease in crime incidents. Of those reported on here—assault, aggravated assault, homicide and sexual assault—there was a decrease from 2019 to 2020 across the board.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the COVID-19 pandemic impacted crime statistics for several reasons. Certainly the initial lockdown, which kept many social interactions at bay, likely impacted the number of crimes that would have occurred early on. The drop in crime is correlated with the mobility of the population, so when restrictions were tighter there were fewer crimes reported, particularly property crimes (at homes, not businesses) and homicides. However, nationally, there was a spike in homicide rates in early summer, but it is unknown if that relates to the pandemic or other factors.

Additionally, while there was likely a decrease in the number of incidents there was also likely a decrease in reporting.

As we near the halfway mark of 2021, with vaccination rates increasing and restrictions loosening the question is whether crime rates increase from 2020 levels, remain the same or continue to decrease. As the pandemic continues to affect society, the changes in crime statistics helps us develop a deeper understanding of its affect on long-term crime rate trends.