There’s plenty of action happening in Lansing to protect renters rights, but this part’s not new: Landlords are mainly opposed to reforms while many tenants in Detroit can’t afford the rent. But that second part is still worth a closer look. This week, we’re sharing a deep dive from BridgeDetroit about one woman’s struggle to find stable housing. 

In other news, we’ve got more questions than answers about an agreement between the City of Detroit and the powerful Moroun family; The Mid could get another breather; construction will soon begin on a center offering free lodging to families of veterans receiving medical care; and more. 

Here’s your weekly recap of Detroit development news. 

‘The rent is too damn high’

Democrats in Lansing have started introducing a flurry of legislation geared toward protecting renters rights and making rent more affordable. One bill introduced before legislators went on summer break would prohibit landlords from using credit scores and criminal history as factors in selecting tenants. Another introduced Thursday would lift the statewide ban on rent control. Many other potential proposals are on the table, including limiting application fees, removing barriers to homebuilding and requiring landlords to pay for renter relocation if their building is condemned. 

The activity in Lansing is occurring against the backdrop of rallies organized by a coalition of housing advocacy groups that say high rent is burdening tenants. Around 40% of renters in Michigan make too much to qualify for rental subsidies but too little to afford rent at market rates. Unsurprisingly, most landlords are in opposition to the proposals, saying rents have plateaued and supply is set to go up in most parts of the state. (MLive, WLNS, Detroit Free Press, Crain’s Detroit Business)

One woman’s story

Some of the challenges facing renters are exemplified by Tonya Hogan. After her husband died of COVID-19 in January 2022, she was unable to make monthly payments on the home the couple was working to buy through a land contract. Since losing her home, she’s lived with family, in her car, shelters and finally a one-bedroom apartment in Melvindale thanks to a Section 8 voucher. 

Hogan faces several personal barriers to stable housing. She struggles to find consistent work because of her health issues, which include renal disease, back pain and mental health challenges. Other obstacles are systemic: lack of affordable and quality housing, difficulty using Section 8 vouchers and few effective support systems for unhoused people. The number of unhoused people has steadily increased since the pandemic, as has the time they’ve remained in shelters. (BridgeDetroit)

Secret deal? 

The City of Detroit is aggressively pursuing property owners who neglect their properties. But the Morouns seem to get away with some of the worst blight offenses in the city. Is it because there’s an agreement between the city and a powerful real estate family? Nat Zorach said the city granted a Freedom of Information Act request for a memorandum of understanding between the two parties. 

Zorach, who writes about urban planning and policy at The Handbuilt City, told Outlier Media that the city hasn’t provided him the document yet, only saying that it’s 39 pages. A source within the Buildings, Safety Engineering, and Environmental Department told him the agreement allowed the city to present violations to property owners prior to enforcement. The city also settled with the Morouns in December for just $50,000 for blight tickets on nearly 2,000 properties. (Handbuilt City, Axios Detroit)

Another lifeline

An ambitious but stalled project in Midtown looks like it will get yet another extension on brownfield tax credits from the state. The Michigan House of Representatives approved an extension on the construction timeline for The Mid, which now has until the end of 2026 to build part of a single building to keep more than $8.9 million in tax credits. The development near Mack and Woodward avenues, expected to cost $377 million in its most recent estimate, has yet to break ground. The developers said the project has been delayed by construction cost increases, which has made it difficult to secure financing. The tax credits had previously been extended in 2021 and were set to expire Thursday. Rep. Abraham Aiyash, who introduced the bill, said he wouldn’t advocate for another extension. The Michigan Senate still needs to approve the bill. (Crain’s)

Best of the rest

Detroit property owner Michael Higgins died last week at the age of 74. The longtime landlord invested in Detroit real estate during the ’80s and ’90s when others were selling, but Higgins has recently faced legal troubles for unpaid bills and lack of progress at some of his developments…

Ground will soon break on the Fisher House, where families of veterans receiving care at the John D. Dingell VA Medical Center in Midtown can stay for free…

Several groups are looking to raise $25,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to revitalize the Lincoln Street Art Park near the Recycle Here! facility…

Detroit named urban farming activist Tepfirah Rushdan as the city’s first director of urban agriculture. Rushdan will act as a liaison between the city and farmers. (Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Model D, Outlier)

Aaron (he/him) believes in telling true stories about real people. He doesn’t think there’s anything better than a crisp fall afternoon at the Detroit Jazz Fest.