Detroit, Still Dead, Struggles With Population, Poverty, Blighted Housing

Andrew Jameson / Wikimedia Commons

Downtown Detroit, near what is called the GM Renaissance Center, has had a renaissance. Corporations and entrepreneurs have revived the area near the Detroit River. Much of the balance of the 139 square miles inside the city limits is blighted by poverty, a shrinking population and thousands of houses that need to be demolished because they are falling apart. The revival of Detroit is a myth, once people get further and further from the Renaissance Center

Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor Co. (NYSE: F) said his company will repair and occupy the decrepit Michigan Central Station. It is walking distance from the restored downtown, but much further from the falling down housing shown on the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force Map. Of the 380,217 parcels of land parcels mapped in 2014, 40,007 were in blighted parts of the city. Also, 38,429 parcels were identified as “unoccupied, abandoned, or under government ownership.”

Detroit’s central services, which include ambulances and the police force, have often been described as woefully understaffed. The city’s budget is not large enough to address these problems. Among the primary reasons is Detroit’s population is still shrinking. It has dropped to 673,104, according to the most recent census data. The number of people living in poverty was 39.4%. The median household income was $26,249, less than half the national average. The means Detroit’s personal tax base is tiny.

The reality of Detroit’s recovery is that it would take untold billions of dollars to bulldoze its blighted neighborhoods and find above the poverty level jobs for many tens of thousands of people. Some portion of the downtown recovery would need to move further out into the city. The reclamation of the Michigan Central Station would have to touch over 100 square miles, which contain the troubled parts of the city. And Quicken Loans, one of the companies that have resurrected the downtown portion of the city, would need to do more than bolster the downtown and bring a PGA event to the Detroit Golf Club. When the event was announced, Quicken Loans Chief Executive Jay Farner said:

Professional golf belongs in Detroit. The Motor City — and the entire state of Michigan — have long served as a premier golf destination with some of the best courses in the country. We will be working with the PGA Tour to make the Detroit stop one of the most exciting and engaging events on the professional golf calendar.

People who are part of impoverished Detroit cannot attend.

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