Metro-Detroit CPI Rises and New Builds Decline

Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to remain stable and below 5 percent, a trend that has occurred since June of 2022. In January of 2024, the State of Michigan’s unemployment rate was 4 percent. While this a good sign, Michigan Labor Market Information Director Wayne Rourke was recently quoted in a Michigan Public Radio article saying that the job market in Michigan is beginning to cool off. He did add though that the job market is still good.

In Detroit, the 2023-2028 Economic Outlook produced as part of the City of Detroit-University Economic Analysis Partnership between U of M, the City of Detroit, Michigan State University and Wayne State University, shows even more optimism. According to report, payroll jobs are expected to increase by 3,000 in 2023 and by 8,900 from now until 2028. Such growth will is expected to decrease Detroit’s unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in 2028. Detroit’s unemployment rate was 8.2 percent in January of 2024, which was a slight increase from where it was in November and December of 2023.

When comparing the unemployment rates of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan between January of 2023 and January of 2024 we again see signs of economic optimism, with unemployment rates being down or remaining stable for all seven counties. Monroe County had the largest decrease in its unemployment rate between January 2023 and January 2024 at 0.7 percent; it also had the highest unemployment rate in January of 2023 at 4.9 percent. In January of 2024, Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 4.7 percent, which is what it was the year before too. Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment at 2.9 percent in January of 2024.

The charts below show the percent changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on a month-to-month basis and a year-to-year basis for each month in years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024 in the Midwest Region. The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, energy, housing and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined group of goods and averaging them.

The first  chart below highlights how the CPI changed on a month-to-month basis between 2019 and 2024. Currently in 2024, the region’s prices were up 0.6 percent in the month of February. The highlights for the change include:

•Overall food prices remained unchanged, but the price of meat, fish, poultry and eggs increase 0.5 percent.

•The energy index increased by 4 percent over the month, due almost entirely to an increased price in gasoline (8 percent). There was a 1.5 percent increase in natural gas services too though.

•Rent (+0.4 percent) and apparel (+ 3.1 percent) also contributed to the increase in the month-to-month CPI increase. This increase was slightly offset by the 0.9 percent decrease in medical care services though.

When examining the second chart, which shows how prices changed on a year-to-year basis,  we see how the CPI advanced by 2.8 percent from the last year.

In January of 2024 the CPI was reported to be 2.8 percent above what it was the year prior, meaning consumer prices continue to rise. Contributing factors to the continued increase in the CPI include

•Food prices increasing 2.2 percent over the last year, with “away from home” food prices increasing 3.9 percent

•The cost of electricity decreased by 5.1 percent, with the 11.3 percent decline in the price of natural gas slightly offsetting the 4.5 percent increase in prices paid for electricity.

•Owners’ equivalent rent of residences increasing 6.5 percent and rent of primary residence increasing 6.3 percent.

Home prices in Metro-Detroit for 2023 again set a record. In December of 2023, the average price of a single-family dwelling sold in December of 2023 was $182,890, according to the Case Shiller Index. In January of 2023, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $168,300, which is a $14,590 difference from what the average prices were at the end of the year. While average home prices during the first six months of 2023 remained on par with what they were in 2022, the data shows that price began to increase again in latter part of the year.

Between December of 2023 and 2022 the average price of a single-family dwelling increased $13,400; between December of 2023 and 2020 the price increased $41,230 and between December of 2023 and 2014 the average price has increased $85,900.

With the cost of home prices increasing, it also appears the number of building permits being pulled in Southeast Michigan have been declining overall since 2021. The number of single-family dwelling building permits pulled in March of 2021 was the peak between then and now. At that time, 618 single-family dwelling building permits were pulled. The highest number of single-family dwelling building permits pulled in 2023 was 494 (March, 2023). While Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in her 2024 State of the State address that we need more housing to decrease the cost to purchase/rent a home, building is actually declining.

According to a February 2024 Detroit Free Press article, some reasons for the decline in building new single-family dwelling units are the cost to build, modest statewide population growth and a shortage of skilled trade workers. Also, increased costs to build a home means those homes cost more to purchase, which is also proving to be difficult in today’s economy.

Housing Prices Begin to Stabilize, CPI Takes A Dip in Metro-Detroit

Michigan’s unemployment continues to decrease, for the tenth straight month, and the labor force in the state continues to grow. This year is looking much rosier than in 2020 when great uncertainty riddled the state, and the country. With job recovery following the peak of the pandemic, and an increase in revenues from the sales and use tax and federal funding the state is predicting about a $5 million surplus. While such a surplus can viewed as a sign of improved economic times, we must also recognize inflation is on the rise, and uncertainty still looms with COVID and the war in Ukraine. Recognizing that inflation is hitting the homes of most, if not all, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer was proposed sending $500 to working Michigan families in attempt to help ease the strain on our pockets. The Republic led majority legislature is discussing a $2.5 billion plan that would cut taxes. What will happen remains unknown, especially as the project surplus is just an estimate.

But the data below does tell that story that Michigan’s economy is on the rise while the costs of goods and services is also on the rise.

The chart below provides a more detailed look at how unemployment rates are currently, compared to year ago, at the local level. Across all seven counties in Southeastern Michigan unemployment rates were lower in July of 2022 as compared to July of 2021. Wayne County experienced the largest decrease in that year, with the unemployment rate decreasing by 4.9 percent. While Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate in the region in July of 2021 (9.6%), it did not have the highest rate in July of 2022. Rather, Monroe County currently had the highest unemployment rate in the region in July of 2022 at 5.4 percent. Livingston County continued to have the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 2.2 percent.

The charts below show the percent changes in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) on a month-to-month basis and a year-to-year basis for each month in years 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2022 in the Midwest Region. The CPI is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, energy, housing and medical care. It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined group of goods and averaging them.

The first  chart below highlights how the CPI changed on a month-to-month basis between 2019 and 2022. Currently in 2022, the region’s prices were down 0.2 percent. The highlights for the change include:

•Food prices increasing 1.2 percent for the month of July (prices for food at home increased 1.5 percent while prices for food outside of the home increased by 0.8 percent)
•Gas prices declining 8.8 percent, which contributed to the energy index decline of 5.7 percent
•Overall, prices without considering food and energy prices, rose by 0.3 percent from the month prior.

When examining the second chart, which shows how prices changed on a year-to-year basis,  we see how prices remain higher than previous years but that there was a decline in the CPI for the month of July between 2021 and 2022.

In July of 2022 the CPI was reported to be 8.6 percent above what it was the year prior (this is lower than the 9.5 percent increased experienced between June of 2021 and 2022). Contributing factors to the continued increase in the CPI include:

•Food prices increasing 12.4 percent over the last year
•Energy prices increasing 34.1 percent over the last year.
•New and used motor vehicles increasing 8.4 percent
•And household furnishings and operations increasing 10.8 percent.
While home prices in Metro-Detroit continue to increase from one month to the next, the rate at which they are increasing is beginning to taper off. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $172,560 in July of 2022; this was a mere $170 higher than the average family dwelling price in June. While the month-to-month increase has slowed down, a look at data from year’s prior is a reminder just how much the average price of a home has increased. Between July of 2022 and 2021 the average price increased $19,960 and between July of 2022 and 2014 the price increased $75,220.

The $100K Home May Soon be a Dream of the Past in Southeastern Michigan

Housing prices continue to soar in the Metro-Detroit region, and beyond.  According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold was $154,160 in July of 2021; this was $1,560 higher than the average family dwelling price in June. Furthermore, the July 2021 price was an increase of $21,700 from July of 2020 and $56,030 from July of 2014. This means, that the average single-family dwelling was being sold for under $100,000 in 2014. The data below shows how pressed a homebuyer would be to find a home for such a price in 2019 (most recent American Community Survey), meaning it is even more difficult today.

According to the 2019 ACS data, Wayne County had the highest percentage of owner-occupied units that were valued at less than $100,000 at 44.8 percent. The percentage of owner-occupied homes valued at less than $100,000 available in Wayne County in 2019 was 24 percent less than what was available five years prior (2014). Wayne County experienced the smallest decline in owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000, while Oakland County experienced the largest. In 2019, 12.5 percent of the owner-occupied units in Oakland County were valued at less than $100,000. That number is a 47 percent decrease in the percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 in 2014—five years prior.

While Oakland County had the largest decline in the percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 between 2014 and 2019, it was Livingston County that had the smallest percentage of owner-occupied units valued at less than $100,000 both in 2014 and 2019. In 2019, 8 percent of Livingston County’s owner-occupied housing stock was valued at less than $100,000 and in 2014 it was 14 percent (still the lowest in the region).

Overall, the data shows some of what we already know—particularly that housing prices continue to increase, and at a more rapid rate than in previous years. However, we also know that wages are not increasing with the rate of inflation, and for many, with the rate of increased home prices. As affordable housing continues to remain an issue, it is important to understand where those gaps are also growing at an increased rate. The data shows that, regionally, Wayne County had the largest percentage of homes available for under $100,000, with the number available decreasing at the slowest rate.

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 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.

USPS Reports Decreased Vacancy Rates in Detroit

In December of 2020 the US Postal Service reported 74,313 total vacant properties in the City of Detroit, equivalent to a 19 percent vacancy rate. This rate is the lowest report rated since 2015, as can be seen in the first chart below. Additionally in 2020 the Postal Service reported 317,272 occupied addresses.

According to the first map below, while the overall vacancy rate in December of 2020 was 19 percent, there were several areas in the City with much higher rates. The highest rates stemmed off of I-96 and Gratiot Avenue in the City of Detroit, with the highest overall rate for a Census Tract being 52.3 percent in the Morningside/Chandler Park area. Conversely, vacancies remained the lowest in the Downtown Detroit area and Green Acres/Pembroke/Bagley areas. High vacancy rates in the City ranged from 31-52.3 percent and low vacancy rates ranged from 1.9 to 9.3 percent. Between September and December of 2020 the vacancy rate decreased by 0.3 percent. Additionally, the vacancy rate had an annual 2 percent decrease plus a 2.8 percent decrease over a five year time period. The second map below shows the long-term trends; all but seven Census Tracts experienced a decrease in vacancy or little to no change between 2019 and 2020. The Chandler Park area had the highest increase in vacancy rates between December 2019 and 2020 at 3.5 percent.

The USPS provides aggregate vacancy and no-stat counts of residential and business addresses that are collected by postal workers and submitted to on a quarterly basis the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While occupancy status is recorded, USPS does not capture any information about the nature of the vacancy or the address itself, other than whether it is a residential or business address. To the USPS, the address is either occupied and requires mail service or is vacant and does not. An address is deemed vacant if it did not collect mail for 90 days or longer. In addition to occupied and vacant addresses there are also “no stat” addresses. A “no stat” address is deemed that if it is under construction and not yet occupied or is in an urban area and identified by a carrier as not likely to be active for some time.

As noted, overall vacancy rates in the City of Detroit have been declining, and this also true at both the residential and business levels. Residential vacancy rates in September of 2015 were 22.6 percent, which was equivalent to 81,666 residential vacancies. By December of 2020 that number of vacancies decreased to 19.3 percent, or 67,442 total vacancies.

For business vacancies there was a total of  6,871 vacant businesses out of 28,438 total businesses in the City, this was equivalent to 24.2 percent. In September of 2015 the vacancy rate was 24.6 percent for a total of 7,337 vacant businesses out of 29,885.

Examining both charts below we see that there has been a steadier decline in residential vacancy rates than business vacancy rates. Between 2015 and 2019 business vacancies were actually climbing, and reached a high of 28 percent in December of 2018. Then, through the Pandemic declined substantially, though it is not clear why.

According to the USPS there was 27,878 “no stat” addresses reported in Detroit in December of 2020, an increase of 3,884 from the year prior.

Higher Income Households Moving Into Select Neighborhoods in Detroit

The map below is one of the most striking we have produced recently in that it shows the clear concentration of higher income households moving into a relatively narrow range of neighborhoods near Downtown, east along Jefferson and north along Woodward.

It also shows that, with a few exceptions, many of the highest median income Census Tracts in the City of Detroit have amongst the newest homeowners. For example, majority of the Census Tracts along the Detroit River and bordering the Downtown and newer developed areas in the City have median incomes between about $69,000 and $132,000, and the average year of property purchase ranges between 2003 and 2012. The data used in this post is from the 2016 American Community Survey, thus these higher income tracts have an average length of residency between four and 13 years. In the map below, which highlights the average length of homeownership and median income, the earliest average year of homeownership for any one Census Tract is 1980.

Throughout the City’s most eastern and western Census Tracts the median incomes range between about $10,000 and $46,000, the lower two income brackets on the map, but the range of median move in date of homeowners is wide. For example, on the most western side of Detroit, average year of homeowner residency ranges between 1997 and 2012, with the average median income being between about $32,000 and $46,000. As you move further east, toward the central area of the City, the average length of homeownership increases and the average median income, those being in the lower half of the overall range, remains the same. There are of course some exceptions. For example, in the Palmer Park area the average median income ranges between about $70,000 and $132,000 in the Census Tracts and the average year in which a homeowner purchased a property ranges between 1991 and 1996. In Southwest Detroit, homeowners, on average, purchased their properties in 1991 or later, and the majority of the Census Tracts in that area have homeowners with median incomes ranging between $32,000 and $46,000. The Corktown Census Tract does have the same average length of homeownership, but the residents there tend to have higher incomes. Moving east beyond the central area of the Detroit we see similar patterns to the western area of the City. The longest average length of homeownership is located farther from the eastern border of the City, and the most eastern Census Tracts have some of the most recent average years of purchase.

The overall message of the homeownership map is that the Census Tracts with the highest median incomes tend to have some of the City’s newest homeowners, as do some of the City’s Census Tracts with the lowest average median incomes. This paints several pictures, the first being that neighborhoods near, north and east of Downtown are attracting those with median incomes more than two times higher than the overall median income for the City of Detroit ($26,000). Another picture could be that many people with low and moderate median incomes have also had some opportunities to purchase homes, however these homes are located on the outskirts of the City. Or citizens with relatively low incomes are buying homes that were foreclosed upon in the 2008 recession. Finally, the Census Tracts with lowest longest average length of homeownership also tend to have residents with among the lowest median incomes. This could be due to the fact that these homeowners are now retired and living off of Social Security, pensions or other forms of retirement based incomes. This is consistent with our prior posts on the distribution of households receiving government and pension payments.

The map that displays the median income and average length of residency at a property for renters is much different than the homeownership map. As would be expected, the average length of residency for a rental tenant in a particular property is much shorter than that of a homeowner. The earliest average year of renter tenancy for a Census Tract in the City is 2001. There are only three Census Tracts in the City where the average year a renter moved into a property is between 2001 and 2003; the median incomes for these Census Tracts tops out at about $32,000. Overall, the top median income for the renter map tops out at $52,000, furthering the conversation that renters tend to have lower incomes. The west side of the City had the highest concentration of newest tenants (average length of renter tenancy ranging between 2012 and 2014) with majority of the median incomes ranging between $9,000 and $23,000.

The renter map shows that, overall, those who rent tend to have lower median incomes than those who purchase homes and also do not have a tendency to remain in one location for long periods of time.

Overall, this post highlights how those with median incomes more than double the City’s median income are purchasing properties in developing areas of Detroit. However, those with among the lowest median incomes in the City either rent and move around every few years or have owned and remained in their home for well over 30 years.


Detroit’s Outer Most Neighborhoods Have Lowest Percentage of Long-Term Homeowners

Of the about 600 Census Tracts in the City of Detroit about 75 of them have more than 40 percent of the residents who have owned their home since 1979 or earlier, according to the most recent data from U.S. Census Bureau. These Census Tracts are primarily located just west of Highland Park, but not in the City’s most westward neighborhoods. There are also several Census Tracts with a high percentage of long-term homeowners just east of Hamtramck. Again though, these neighborhoods don’t extend to the most eastern parts of the City. Homeownership in the Census tracts along the City’s borders primarily peaked between 1990 and 1999, with between 20 and 43 percent of the homeowners in those Census tracts having owned their homes since that decade. Between 2000 and 2009 there was about a handful of Census tracts where between about 50 and 80 percent of homeowners moved in during that decade. One of those Census tracts is located in Southwest Detroit right along the Detroit River. There is also about a handful of Census tracts with 10-25 percent of homeowners having just purchased their home since 2015. The Census Tracts are located in the Corktown, Midtown, North End, Palmer Park and West Village areas, all areas experiencing improvement in housing quality and investment.

There are large areas of Detroit’s outer neighborhoods where large shares of the renters have moved in since 2010. Detroit’s most eastern and western neighborhoods have among the highest percentage of renters who moved into those areas between 2010 and 2014. The City Airport/Kettering neighborhood areas have majority of renters residing in those areas since the early 2000s. The “Poletown” neighborhood just south of Hamtramck has the highest percentage of recent home renters between 2010 and 2014. Higher percentage of recent renters can arguably be attributed to three trends, the first being the increase of people moving into Detroit’s re-developing neighborhoods (Downtown, Midtown, New Center, the West Village-in these areas between 60-90 percent of renters have been there since 2010). The second trend may be the movement of lower income individuals due to evictions and/or inability to afford long-term housing options. The third trend, frequently mentioned by property inspectors and others, is families forced by eviction to become renters of the homes they formerly owned. There are only two Census Tracts in Detroit where more than 20 percent of residents have been renting since 1979 or earlier, one is located just north of Hamtramck, and the other is located near the Woodbridge area. In the vast majority of City Census Tracts it is rare to find substantial percentages of renters remaining in one spot for longer than 35 plus years.

Overall, the data in this post shows that City’s outermost neighborhoods have the lowest percentage of long-term homeowners, and instead higher percentages of recent renters. Next week we will look at how income plays a role in homeowner and rental markets in Detroit.


February Economic Indicators: Unemployment Rates, Housing Costs Fairly Stable


  • The unemployment rate increased at the state and local levels(monthly);
  • Regionally, Washtenaw County’s unemployment rate was the lowest;
  • The number of demolitions in Detroit outweighed the number of building starts;
  • Housing prices remained flat.

In December of 2017 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan was 4.7, a slight increase from the November unemployment rate of 4.6, according to the most recent data provided by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The State unemployment rate for December was 0.3 points below what it was in December of 2016.

The Detroit rate was lower over the last year, but up for the most recently reported month. The City of Detroit unemployment rate was reported to be 1.1 points lower in December of 2017 than what it was reported at in December of 2016. For December 2017 the unemployment rate was reported at 8.7; in 2016 it was reported to be 9.8. Between November and December of 2017 though the unemployment rate for Detroit increased by 0.9 points.

The chart above displays the unemployment rates for each of the seven counties in Southeastern Michigan for December of 2016 and 2017. Wayne County had the highest unemployment rates for both 2016 and 2017 (5.7 and 5.1 percent, respectively). Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rates in 2017 and 2016 during the month of December. In December 2017 the Washtenaw County employment rate was 3 and in 2016 it was 2.7. Additionally, in December of 2017, Washtenaw and Monroe counties were the only two in the region that had unemployment rates higher than in December of 2016.

Wayne and St. Clair counties were the only two in the region with unemployment rates above 4.5 percent in 2017.

St. Clair County had the largest unemployment rate decrease between December 2016 and 2017 at 0.8. In December of 2017 St. Clair County had a unemployment rate of 4.8, and in 2016 that rate was 5.6.

Oakland County had the highest number of housing starts in 2017, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments, at 3,467. St. Clair County had the lowest number of housing starts in the region at 307, more than 3,000 less than Oakland County.

Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties had the highest number of housing starts in 2017; these counties also have the highest population numbers in the region. Additionally, all three counties have experienced growth in the number of housing permits being pulled since 2010. Macomb and Oakland counties did experience a dip of about 400 each in 2014, but numbers continued to grow after this.

Wayne County was the only one in the region that had a higher number of demolitions than housing starts. All but 206 of 3,415 demolitions occurred in the City of Detroit, according to SEMCOG. In total, there were 3,209 demolitions in Detroit in 2017 and 1,084 housing starts in the same year.

Below is a map of all the demolitions in Detroit between Jan. 1 and Feb. 22, 2018. So far this year there has been 176 demolitions in Detroit, according to the City’s open data portal. The map shows that the demolitions are now occurring outside of the downtown/Midtown areas and instead farther out into the City. Some of the heaviest concentrations of demolitions are occurring in the West Village area of the City and in the far northwest area.

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 $117,550 in November 2017; this was $300 lower than the average family dwelling price in October. The November 2017 price was an increase of $8,230 from November of 2016 and an increase of $14,140 from November of 2015 and an increase of $20,260 from November of 2014.

Vacancy Rates in Detroit Remain Stagnant

In the City of Detroit in September 2016 the total percentage of vacancies was 21.9 percent, according to the U.S. Postal Service. This vacancy percentage was nearly unchanged from the 22 percent total vacancy rate the U.S. Postal Service reported in June of 2016. Similarly, when looking at the percentage of residential vacancies and business vacancies in the City these too nearly went unchanged between June and September. The U.S. Postal Service reports that the September 2016 residential vacancy rate was 22.4, down 0.1 percent. The September 2016 business vacancy rate was 25.9, up .02 percent from June.

Overall, in the month of September there were 87,762 reported total vacancies, 80,002 of which were residential, 7,670 of which were businesses and 104 of which were considered “other.” Between June and September, the total 0.1 percent vacancy decrease was equivalent to a decrease of 579 vacant addresses; there was a decrease of 641 vacant residential addresses and an increase of 62 vacant business addresses.

The first two maps below show, by Census Tract, the total number of vacancies and the total percentage of vacancies. The Census Tract with the highest number of total vacancies is on the east side, just north of Belle Isle. This Census Tract had 906 vacancies, which was 50.6 percent of the total number of structures in that Census Tract.

As the first map shows, majority of the Census Tracts with vacancies above 400 were located either on the cities east side, or just west of the downtown area of Detroit. When looking at the total percentage of vacancies in Detroit by Census Tract we see there is a slight shift in which Census Tracts have among the highest amount of vacancies in terms of percentage versus total numbers. This is directly related to the total number of structures in each Census Tract. For example, just east of Hamtramck there is a Census Tract with 229 vacant addresses, a number that does not put in amongst the Census Tracts with the highest vacancy numbers. However, these 229 vacant addresses in that Census Tract mean there is a 42.9 percent vacancy rate. Just south of that Census Tract is another where there are 307 vacancies which make up 18 percent of the structures there.



When comparing the total number of vacancies between September 2015 and 2016 we see that there are several Census Tracts that experienced an increase in the total number of vacancies. It was a Census Tract just north of Highland Park that experienced the greatest increase at 7.8 percent. Vacancy increases over the last year occurred the most on the City’s east side, however they were not isolated there.

Overall, while there were Census Tracts with vacancy rate increases there was a total decrease of 5,446 vacant addresses between September 2015 and September 2016.

In addition to these changes, in September of 2016 there was a decline in the number of “no stat” addresses; that number decreased by 2084 in the last year. Mail carriers denote properties as being either “vacant” or “no-stat.” Carriers on urban routes mark a property as vacant once no resident has collected mail for 90 days. Addresses are classified as “no-stat” for a variety of reasons. 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. Urban addresses are labeled as no-stat when the carrier decides it is unlikely to be occupied again any time soon — meaning that both areas where property is changing to other uses and areas of severe decline may have no-stat addresses.


Refocusing Housing Policy in Detroit: Moving to Healthy Housing

The majority of families in Detroit face the risk of death, injury, illness and loss of their children’s mental capacity every day because of hazards in their homes. Based upon highly detailed analyses of homes, it is clear that homes are causing burns, falls, asthma, allergies and lead poisoning.

A detailed survey of Detroit homes, conducted by the Center for Urban Studies at Wayne State University, found that over 62 percent of nearly 500 randomly selected homes have at least one high risk hazard that is likely to lead to poor health outcomes. [1] Of these, 4.2 percent of the homes have three or more hazards in these high risk categories. These dangerous housing conditions, combined with high unemployment and continued crime, are driving people to leave the city in droves.

Recent estimates show Detroit is continuing to lose residents at fast clip, about 1,155 residents[2] a month.

The City is working hard on unemployment (and the improvement of the economy as a whole is helping) and on increased and smarter policing. But on housing for existing residents, far more needs to be done, not just by the City, but by the State and the Federal Government.

To stop this decline and avoid the health consequences of dangerous homes, Detroit and policy makers need to focus far more efforts on providing safe and healthy homes.

As of July 2014, Detroit had a total of 252,173 occupied housing units.[3] However, our best estimates—very generous–are that only around 500 a year are being substantially improved to make them healthy and safe places to live, while just over 800 new housing units were built last year.[4] This is an estimated total of 1,300 homes being produced per year. At this pace, it will be many decades before vast majority of Detroit’s residents can live in safe and healthy homes.

What is a reasonable goal for creating healthy homes for Detroit’s children? A modest goal would be to house all of Detroit’s 193,150 children[5] in safe housing within 10 years. Approximately 3 percent of households (or around 6,000 children) already reside in housing built later than 1980[6] and, in most cases, this is relatively safe housing.[7] A total of about 79,400 households with children live in pre-1980 housing, and we estimate 38 percent are in houses that have only minor hazards[8]. That means 49,259 households are living in homes where one or more major hazard puts them at risk every day. Having nearly 50,000 households plagued with one or more hazards is unacceptable, which is why the families residing in these homes need either new or rehabilitated housing, and they need it soon.

Within 10 years—a short time in the policy world—policy makers should be able to address these needs. To avoid deaths, injuries, illness and loss of mental capacity caused by home environments, Detroit needs at least 4,900 new or rehabilitated homes a year. That is 3.8 times the number we estimate that is being produced now. And this is only the number necessary to protect families with children, not other vulnerable populations such as the elderly.

We need to massively expand renovation and construction, specifically, in these ways:

  • First, concentrate on housing with children, the most vulnerable among us, for rehabilitation;
  • Let’s give families with children a priority to relocate to subsidized housing that has been built after 1980 or that has been re-built and remediated, including lead abatement.
  • Make homes healthy through small investments. Some homes can be made healthy for an investment of substantially less than $5,000. The Green & Healthy Homes Initiative Detroit-Wayne County has shown this can be done. We need to do more of this.
  • Work to improve and remove hazards from current houses, rather than new construction. In cases where the abatement of lead hazards is necessary, the work can cost an average of $20,000,[9] still a fraction of the cost of a new construction.
  • Use code enforcement to force rental owners to substantially improve homes. Progress is being made here, but the number of code inspectors, cut sharply in the midst of Detroit’s fiscal difficulties, needs to be expanded substantially.
  • Ensure all new construction in Detroit includes affordable units.
  • Increasingly the private sector is rehabilitating homes in Detroit. These rehabilitations should pass all standards, especially including the removal of asbestos and lead-based paint. Currently, private sector rehabilitations do not have to pass all standards among governmental and lending organizations that control the sale and rehabilitation of many of these homes.
  • Leverage local and state resources, ranging from public entities to non-profit and for-profit organizations, to develop a robust rehabilitation program. Mayor Duggan has made a good start here with his zero interest loan program, but many families cannot meet the income and other requirements required by this program. We need grant programs to assist these low income homeowners.
  • Many thousands of families are living in homes that have black mold and other major damage from the August, 2014 floods across Detroit and other communities in Southeast Michigan. FEMA and other agencies need to invest in these homes to protect people from major health problems.

Healthy Homes Risk Assessments 

These maps below are based on a random sample of 500 homes spread broadly across Detroit. At each house assessors completed a Healthy Homes Rating System assessment that examined 29 potential hazards. This rating system is a HUD-endorsed rating instrument that assesses both the probability of injury and extent of injury from a hazard.  Three of the most frequently occurring and severe hazards were excess cold, mold and dampness and lead paint. The following three maps portray of the areas of Detroit that had the highest levels of hazards.


HHRSMold Cold


[1] This data is collected using the Healthy Homes Rating System ( According to this system, a “high-risk” hazard is identified by a rating of A, B or C on a scale of A-J, A being highest likelihood of serious injury or death and J being minimal risk.

[2] This calculation is based on the April 1, 2010 estimate based on the Census and a 2014 estimate from SEMCOG, broken down into a monthly estimate by simple division across the months.

[3] SEMCOG Community Profile, City of Detroit (

[4] At best only several hundred houses a year are being improved to systematically reduce health hazards. It is important to note, however, that about 806 new housing units were constructed in Detroit last year.

[5]U.S. Census Bureau, Demographic and Housing Estimates, 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Detroit city, Michigan (

[6] U.S. Census Bureau, Households and Families, 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Detroit city, Michigan (, U.S. Census Bureau, Households and Families, 2013 American Community Survey 1-Year Estimates, Detroit city, Michigan ( This is probably an underestimate as we were unable to obtain of precise occupancy data for post-1980 housing.

[7] It is also important to know that lead paint was banned for use in residences in 1978 and taken off the shelves in 1980.

[8] This estimate is based on the results from the Healthy Homes Rating System being conducted in Detroit.

[9] This cost may include the replacement of all windows within the home as this is a major source of lead.