In the first three months of 2019, Detroit Future City helped foster greener neighborhoods, improve housing quality, and inform residents and policymakers about the changing state of Detroit's middle class households.
New Report Released on Detroit's Middle Class
Detroit Future City released a new report about Detroit’s African American middle-class on February 27th. The report, entitled, “Growing Detroit’s African-American Middle Class: The Opportunity for a Prosperous Detroit,” defines and describes the city’s middle-class population and identifies challenges and opportunities which lay ahead for it.
Researchers behind the report found that Detroit’s middle-class population comprises a smaller share of city households than those of peer cities and the surrounding region. Promisingly, though, there are many city neighborhoods described as “near-middle-class,” providing a fertile basis for future gains.
The city is home to 64,700 middle class households, 51,000 of whom are African American. Since the year 2000, many have moved to surrounding communities, researchers report. Though this trend may slow or reverse as the city grows again, a new challenge has emerged in recent years: equitable development.
For Detroit to realize a share of middle-class households on par with the surrounding region, and grow equitably, it would need to add 33,800 new middle-class residents - including an additional 27,700 African Americans.
Detroit Future City selected nine groups to receive funding and technical assistance to transform vacant lots in their community into beautiful and productive landscapes. Through its 2019 Working with Lots Grant program, DFC awarded grants valued at $95,000 to Detroit nonprofits.
The 2019 Working with Lots grantees will receive between $5,000 and $19,000, depending on the lot design being implemented, to create community assets from previously vacant and underutilized lots. Grantees will use their funds to install one of the eight specific lot designs from DFC’s Field Guide to Working with Lots, a do-it-yourself guide and online tool for land transformation.
This year’s grantees met on March 26 to kick off the 2019 Working with Lots Program. Among the grantees, two are planning to install a green stormwater infrastructure practice aimed at receiving a Detroit Water and Sewerage Department (DWSD) drainage credit, and one is installing the Perennial Propagator Lot Design to plant flowers that can later be divided and shared throughout their community.
The Detroit Housing Compact, a public-private partnership facilitated by Detroit Future City, gained traction in the first quarter of 2019, with a focus on addressing housing-related challenges in Detroit.
There are two main areas of interest among Compact members: improving rental housing quality and home ownership in Detroit. To improve rental housing quality, Compact members are developing resources to support small landlords as they achieve compliance with Detroit’s rental property ordinance.
To expand home ownership, Compact members are working to expand the pool of mortgage-ready buyers through new supports for potential homeowners. They are also in the process of identifying strategies to increase the number of move-in ready homes for sale in Detroit.
More than 45 organizations are now engaged in the Detroit Housing Compact, reflecting the significant scale of this initiative. Funding support for Detroit Future City’s role has been provided by JPMorgan Chase Foundation.
DFC Launches Volunteer Program
Detroit Future City recently launched a new volunteer program, giving local residents a chance to meaningfully participate in building the organization and its community impact.
With spring breaking, Detroit Future City plans to recruit additional volunteers to help with installation and maintenance of its Working With Lots grantee sites. These neighborhood-based sites are scattered across Detroit and provide a wonderful opportunity for residents to get outside, get their hands dirty, and socialize in the city they call home.
Shari Williams, Detroit Future City’s Community Partnerships Manager, was honored by the International Institute of Metropolitan Detroit in February 2019 for her outstanding contributions to life in Detroit.
Ms. Williams received the African American Achievement Award at a gala dinner, and was featured in BLAC Detroit Magazine, for her many civic contributions. She has worked to beautify neighborhoods, engage residents, and expand green stormwater infrastructure through Detroit Future City for nearly the past four years.
BLAC Detroit’s article about Ms. Williams is available here.