There are household problems, and then there are home problems. Home problems range from lead paint to inadequate infrastructure to high utility costs. The respondents of the 2021 Detroit Citizen Survey were provided a list of home problems and asked to identify which ones apply to their house or apartment. There were 570 respondents to this question and of those a total of 1,111 problems were identified.
High utility costs was the most common problem, which was identified by 275 people or 48 percent of the respondents. Water or dampness in the basement was the second most identified problem and plumbing issues was the third. Four of the five top problems (mentioned by 83% of householders) concern water in the home, and mold is later mentioned by another 9 percent. Water and dampness in homes is highly correlated with asthma, which is one of the most frequently occurring problems for children and adults in Detroit.
The University of Michigan recently produced a study titled “A Decent Home: The Status of Home Repair in Detroit,” which found that more than 24,000 housing units in Detroit are “severely or moderately inadequate,” but only about 3,000 residents were able to access funds to fix the problems. These funds are aimed at low income residents and provided through grants or loans.
A little background about Detroit’s housing stock, according to the US Census Bureau, 78 percent of Detroit’s housing stock was built before 1960. Of the occupied housing units in the City, 75 percent are worth less than $100,000. Additionally, 67 percent of the occupied rental units have rental prices of less than $1,000. The age of housing and its cost plays a role in ongoing home problems, as does the average income of a household. According to a Bridge Detroit article, 73 percent of Detroit renters earned less than $35,000 in 2019, and about half of those households spent at least 50 percent of their monthly income on rent in. This means either less money for home repairs or having to live in housing units that are less than desirable.
The City of Detroit does have a 0% Home Repair Loans Program that offers zero percent interest loans from $5,000 to $25,000 to help Detroit homeowners invest in and repair their homes. Projects that are eligible for funding through this program include correcting health and safety hazards, electrical repairs, furnace replacement, roof replacement and plumbing. Jefferson East Inc. and Rocket Community Foundations are two other organizations in the City that offer funding for home repairs