2008 December 20 Saturday
Detroit Jails Appealing For Some Homeless

With Depression level 21% unemployment and homelessness, prisons look appealing to some down and out.

DETROIT One measure of how tough times are in the Motor City: Some of the offenders in jail don't want to be released; some who do get out promptly re-offend to head back where there's heat, health care and three meals a day.

"For the first time, I'm seeing guys make a conscious decision they'll be better off in prison than in the community, homeless and hungry," said Joseph Williams of New Creations Community Outreach, which assists ex-offenders. "In prison they've got three hots and a cot, so they commit a crime to go back in and come out when times are better."

Detroit Michigan: avoid it.

About 83 percent of the current population is African-American; of cities with more than 100,000 people, only Gary, Ind., had a higher percentage in the latest census.

Detroit's crime, poverty, unemployment and school dropout rates are among the worst of any major U.S. city. The bus system is widely panned; car and home insurance rates are high. Chain grocery stores are absent, forcing many Detroiters to rely on high-priced corner stores.

With a population of 916k, a city budget deficit of $300 million, and a school budget deficit of $400 million the deficit works out to about $764 per person. That compares to California's deficit of about $600 per person. But since California has a much higher per capita GDP the deficit in Detroit is far worse when measured in terms of ability of residents to pay it.

Update: Detroit houses are some of the cheapest in the nation.

$18,513: Average sale price of a Detroit home so far in 2008, down from $40,011 in 2007, according to Detroit Board of Realtors.

How can Detroit function? Will it go bankrupt?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 December 20 03:02 PM  Economics Poverty

M said at December 21, 2008 3:17 AM:

Given that Detroit has some of the country's most attractive architecture,I've wondered why the new urban gentrification process passed it by.
Not enough whites left to hide the ethnic cleansing that gentrification requires,perhaps?

Stopped Clock said at December 21, 2008 8:42 AM:

Even blacks don't want to live in Detroit. The population is falling just about faster than anywhere else ... it was over 2 million back in the 70s, now it's less than one million. This presumably means that half of the homes in the city are vacant.

Randall Parker said at December 21, 2008 9:27 AM:

I've wondered whether an investment group could buy up a whole section of Detroit and evict all tenants. Then only rent or sell to people who have high incomes. Rents could start out near 0 just to attract a very low crime group. But the screening that would be involved probably would attract legal attacks.

Ned said at December 21, 2008 11:31 AM:

Randall -

It wouldn't work. The incompetent, corrupt Detroit municipal government wouldn't allow it. Besides, why would affluent people, who can live pretty much anywhere they want, choose Detroit? A prosperous neighborhood in the center of all that blight and decay would just serve as a magnet for the numerous local criminals. You'd have to build a ten foot wall around it and patrol it with armed guards, and that would never be permitted. Who would choose to live in an affluent fortress in the middle of urban blight?

Detroit has lost over half of its entire population and stands to lose even more. Basically, no one lives there except those who can't afford to move out. The city resembles Third World dumps such as Lagos or Nairobi much more than other large American cities, most of which do, indeed, have bad areas, but Detroit is ALL a bad area. Big chunks of Detroit are reverting to woods and pastureland, which is a positive development. In another generation or two, there won't be too much left.

Wolf-Dog said at December 21, 2008 1:25 PM:

But if Google takes over the Detroit automobile companies, and starts building electric cars from scratch, with ONLY workers from Silicon Valley migrating to Detroit (with the Silicon Valley work ethic) instead of the unionized workers, then maybe the Detroit can be revived. Given the cheap real estate in Detroit, this move would be ideal.

YT said at December 21, 2008 2:19 PM:

Detroit should be a lesson of what happens when blacks are in charge and when they reach a critical mass of the population. The inmates are running the asylum. There are no chain stores beacuse none of them want to deal with the theft that comes with black populations(and that includes the employees, not just shoplifters).

Engineer-Poet said at December 24, 2008 6:12 PM:

There are parts of Detroit, like Indian Village and part of Virginia Park street east of I-75, which have mansions with architecture you cannot match today.  But nobody wants to live there because it's unsafe and the taxes are ridiculous.

I suggested some time ago that the solution for Detroit was to take parts of the city, secede from the city government and turn them into gated communities with values/rents high enough to keep out the riffraff.  As each section attracted people with the money to keep them up, neighboring sections would become attractive for secession and gentrification also.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Gated communities would be required, because municipal borders are no barrier.  Criminals from Detroit drive to outlying communities to steal.  I've read police reports of Detroit crooks cutting off catalytic converters in burgs some 30 miles from the downtown.  Crime follows the freeways.

When license-plate recognition systems become more democratic, I bet that people will set them to watch for Detroit license plates and keep a careful eye on what the people in those cars do.  That may lower the crime-tax Detroit's dysfunctional impose on the rest.

Bob said at December 27, 2008 4:44 PM:

Randell, your idea would not work since housing is so cheap in the white suburbs of Detroit. A 3500sf mansion on a half acre lot can be had for $300,000, and a more modest house for $70,000, translating to mortgage payments of under $500 a month. It is certainly worth $500 a month to live in a suburb of Detroit rather than the city.

A more realistic proposal is to bulldoze abandoned properties and attach and fence in the lot, for free, to the lot of the nearest occupied house.

Randall Parker said at December 27, 2008 8:20 PM:


What E-P says above you about Indian Village and Virginia Park suggests to me that a lot of value of some Detroit homes could be recaptured if the demographics of the city underwent a huge change. Aren't there 3500sf mansions still inside of Detroit? They could be made worth $300k. Also, if Detroit became less dangerous so would the neighboring suburbs and their real estate values would rise as a result.

I'm not saying my proposal could be implemented. But if it could then the result would be to boost housing values.

Of course, there's the question of where the people in Detroit would go. My guess is they'd go back to where others have gone who have already left: the Old South.

Luke Penwalter said at April 19, 2009 3:21 AM:

Detroit is in bad shape, but not as bad as indicated in the comments on this blog post.

Check out real estate listings here and you'll see some good housing stock on the market for $500k and more.


Detroit has many of the problems faced by all cities, but Detroit has a problem it faces more than other cities: vacancy. Vacancy is caused by people who vacate, not by people who stay.

Whites and blacks vacated, but mostly whites. The current state of Detroit is their legacy, not the legacy of the folks still there drawing $100s of millions of private and public investment dollars every year.

If you look at Detroit crime and factor in poverty and race it is actually one of the safest in the USA.

In other words, if middle-class and affluent whites moved back into the city, without changing anything else, it would be safer than San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, etc.

Detroit Believer said at June 4, 2009 1:28 PM:

Most of the comments in this blog are racist, offensive and incorrect. Detroit has its share of problems, no question. And bad neighborhoods. But there is wonderful art and architecture, a thriving music scene, and great parks. I'm much more optimistic about Detroit's future with Dave Bing as Mayor, Ken Cockrell as president of city council and Robert Bob as school superintendent.

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