Gentrification is a term being used a lot these days in conversations about Detroit. Some say its not really an issue when you consider the excess of housing we have in the city, flooding the market and keeping housing costs low overall. Others point out that low-income residents in certain pockets of the city are indeed getting displaced. These tend to be in the areas where rents are rising significantly, albeit to levels that are still considered below market value. Others believe that its more a cultural gentrification occurring with the influx of new residents. These new residents are perceived as receiving the majority of the media attention and resources causing new values to overshadow the needs of long-time residents. And still others believe gentrification is occurring, that its a painful process, but also a necessary one. Its a complex and layered issue that we do not take lightly.
The first 3 homes that we purchased are in a neighborhood with a relatively high owner-occupancy rate. This means that those individuals occupying the homes tend to be homeowners, not landlords or speculators. A high rate of owner-occupancy is often used by urban planners as an indicator of a stable neighborhood. However, Detroit suffers from such high vacancy rates as well, that this traditional designation does not always hold up. This is indeed the case in the neighborhood we are currently focusing on. Whats frightening and frustrating is that as this once stable Detroit neighborhood deteriorates, it becomes more vulnerable to blight, crime, and speculators. In addition the remaining homeowners often feel stranded, unable to sell their homes. They are simply along for the ride.
By investing in homes located in neighborhoods that are not primarily comprised of renters, we are strategically choosing to invest in long-term residents the way we know how. By purchasing distressed properties and rehabilitating them, we are deflecting their potential purchase by speculators. By giving these homes away, rather then filling them with temporary residents, we provide the neighborhood with more engaged and invested neighbors. By fixing up the properties and adding more eyes ears to the street, we are combatting issues of blight and crime. If by chance, these actions culminate to raise home prices in the neighborhood, long term residents will have the opportunity to benefit. Not just landlords and speculators. Overall Detroit has relatively high owner-occupancy rates as compared with other cities. Our hope is to contribute and reinvest in that tradition in a small way.
Detroiters are all acutely aware of the consequences of the market. Bankruptcy is here, but the city goes on. We will wade through this conversation and the next the best we can. We hope you will too. We can't always foresee what the market will do next. But we will attempt to humanely intervene in the small ways we know how. We will work to to address the ever complicated notion of residency in a city that has lost half of its residents. And we will keep talking. We see our project as a platform to discuss all these things and more. We want it to help bridge a gap between new residents and old. We want them to not just talk to each other, but to get to know one another, to live with one another.