detroit (MSA) does not need new construction

The Washington Post came out with a fake-good headline a few days ago about Detroit’s housing market, claiming that:

Among the nation’s top 20 metropolitan regions, only the Detroit and Washington areas posted annual home price increases, according to S&P/Case-Shiller home price data for October released this week.

The key here is that this is not Detroit; rather, this is the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). As compared to Detroit proper, which comprises 143 square miles, the Detroit MSA comprises the six counties surrounding Detroit, totaling to most of Southeast Michigan. Detroit’s crumbling population doesn’t exceed 1 million; Metro Detroit’s population exceeds 4 million. This trend isn’t occurring in Detroit proper, it is occurring in Metro Detroit.

What’s worse, the article continues:

Improbable as it might seem, the Detroit area is seeing an increase in building permits. Construction firms are dusting off their equipment and returning to work, and bidding wars are breaking out over desirable homes.

Well, okay, this isn’t Detroit, we’ve covered this already, but any increase in building permits and construction aren’t occurring within Detroit. As per Metro Detroit’s sprawl-inducing zoning policies, this growth is occurring admit a vacant housing crisis in Detroit proper, where some estimates list housing vacancies at 30% of the city’s housing stock.

Not all of this housing stock is usable, certainly not new, but the important point is that the infrastructure — the roads, the electricity, the schools — exists in Detroit proper and its nearest suburbs. And it is not being used to its optimum capacity right now. So instead, new construction continues to pull resources away from the natural urban pole to the outskirts of the Metro Detroit area, to places like Romeo, Shelby Township.

The outcomes of this urban policy make no sense, but are incredibly difficult to change. What, have Detroit leaders work with the suburbs? Years of animosity long ago ruined this vital relationship. Institute a smart growth boundary similar to what we’ve seen work in Portland? Tea Partiers in Troy, L. Brooks Patterson, and other Metro Detroit suburbs would never stand for it.

So no, WaPo, this is not a good thing. Detroit proper and Detroit metro do not need new housing construction. They need revitalization of what they have, not the cheap and unsustainable sprawl that their policies encourage.


rod blagojevich thanks detroit city council for making him look better

This is ridiculous.

The Detroit City Council, by a vote of 6 to 2, voted to not touch their allotted $700,000 per year budgets for office expenses amidst their calls for further concessions from unions and a cut to the mayor’s budget.

If Michigan Governor Snyder needed any affirmation to his decision to begin the review process ultimately leading to an emergency manager for Detroit, then the City Council may as well have raised their hands for an emergency manager in the same way that they voted.

The council members argue that they’ve taken 10% cuts for the past three years. So, too, have city businesses, city workers, city residents, and the constituents who they serve. This is not a time for exceptions, this is a time for the city council to show solidarity by giving up the same cell phones, city cars and perks that their constituents have already done without.

Detroit, this move boils down to how to cast your ballot in for the next city council elections.

Vote for: City Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown and Councilwoman JoAnn Watson.

As for the rest?

I’m taking suggestions. I’m sure there’s a cushy board position around there somewhere. Maybe check out vacancies at Metro Airport?

food trucks in a food grassland

DDD plots Detroit-area grocery stores. Photo credit: Data Driven Detroit

1. Data Driven Detroit does some good stuff.

This map of grocery stores located in Detroit, featured in DDD’s most recent newsletter (linked above), depicts the 115 grocery stores that meet their criteria for supplying produce (essentially more than alcohol, tobacco, and chips). The authors analyzed the use of Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, or Bridge cards, in these 155 stores, tracking where users spent EBT dollars. They found that that a significant portion is exchanged for groceries outside of the city’s borders.

When I first spotted this map, I hoped that the analysis would be based at least in part on how far and how long it took a Detroit resident (with and without a car) to access these full service grocery stores. The authors acknowledge that while Detroit is not a food desert in the traditional sense, it fits the bill for a “food grassland,” where distinct pockets within the city do not have ready access to the plotted grocery stores. A next step to determine accessibility would have to take transport times and perhaps store hours (sometimes it’s hard to get to a store if it closes at 7PM post work if you have a commute… hence my dinner of whatever is in the fridge… for the third night…) into account.

2. More food truck news!  First stop September 27th from 4PM to 8PM! Let’s go! Eastern Market Stand 2! Here’s their Facebook page!

detroit is brooklyn; detroit is not brooklyn

When I sit down with my cup of coffee and my third cup of coffee in the morning and want to know the happenings of Detroit, MI, the options are as follows:

  • The Detroit Free Press – Thanks for bad ledes and Mitch Albom. But okay, sometimes you are redeemed, Freep, with food trucks, for example.)
  • The Detroit News. See above.
  • Crain’s Business News – I can only make up like seven more email addresses to access your articles, what’s susan spelled backwards?!
  • Geoff Young at Detroit Policy. Thank you, Geoff Young. You fill my Mondays with useful news items that I may have missed, Geoff Young. I went to public policy school, too, Geoff Young!
  • Michigan Public radio, Mlive aggregation,  etc. etc.

Somewhat limited. And also insufficient to supplement (inform) the multitude of  Why Detroit Is Not Brooklyn or Why Detroit Is In Fact Brooklyn or Why Detroit Is Detroit articles that keep cropping up lately.

Wayne State University Professor John Patrick Leary examines what’s behind the “ruin porn” fascination here.