Hey everyone,

In theory, Detroit’s affordable housing crunch should be helped by the Section 8 voucher program. The program could allow more than 6,400 Detroit households to access vouchers that provide substantial rental subsidies to those in need. 

The Detroit Housing Commission (DHC)’s Section 8 program is performing well below average, with staffing troubles, landlords refusing to work with the program because of late payments, and tenants enduring periods of homelessness while they try to find a landlord who will accept their voucher.

This week, we wrote about the consequences for renters and landlords throughout the city on the DHC’s mismanagement of the Section 8 program. Check out the rest of our stories uncovering issues at the DHC.

Plus, we recap news on reforming the city’s system for providing assistance to unhoused people, more on the effects of Duggan’s proposed land value tax and how Detroit scores on its parks. 

As always, thanks for reading.

The Dirt

>>Yes we CAM: Unhoused people in Detroit have long criticized the centralized way the city provides them with shelter and assistance, saying calls to the hotline frequently go unanswered and that they often wait hours on hold only to be told there isn’t a bed available. The system is called the Coordinated Assessment Model (CAM), and it’s changing hands after being managed by Southwest Solutions for nearly a decade. The transition is leaving some housing service organizations optimistic that it can be reformed for the better with more in-person assistance and better staff training. The Homeless Action Network of Detroit, the City of Detroit and Wayne Metro will manage CAM for the next three years until a new lead agency is selected. (Detroit Free Press)

>>Back to the land value tax: Last week, we wrote about the effects of Mayor Mike Duggan’s proposed land value tax on people who own side lots and surface parking lots. One group we neglected to mention was urban farmers. Duggan said he wants to minimize the tax’s impact on urban farmers and his administration is creating an advisory group to work through the legislation’s impacts on land-owning businesses. Farmers are concerned nonetheless, with some saying the administration should make a distinction between vacant and unproductive land. (Crain’s Detroit Business)

>>Evicted after assistance: A new report from the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions initiative found that $8.2 million in pandemic rental assistance went to Detroit landlords who moved to evict their tenants anyway within six months of receiving payment. The researchers analyzed 5,600 single-family rentals in the city that got this federal assistance, known as COVID Emergency Rental Assistance. Landlords filed evictions 15% of the time. The city said this assistance wasn’t wasted because it helped these tenants stay housed for longer and prevented them from carrying debt. (University of Michigan, Detroit News)

>>Development news quick-hitters: Construction has begun on a new 10-story hotel connected to the Bonstelle Theatre, which will also be restored. This $49 million project from the Roxbury Group is expected to open in 2024… Further north on Woodward Avenue, construction has also begun on the Cathedral Arts Apartments, a 53-unit apartment building for low-income tenants. All units are reserved for those making 60% of the area median income (AMI) or less, with 16 units set at 30% AMI… Michigan State University’s endowment has purchased a majority stake in the Fisher Building, paying $21 million for 79% ownership. The university announced an investment earlier this year in the $2.5 billion expansion of the Henry Ford Health System campus. (Detroit Free Press, Urbanize Detroit, Crain’s Detroit Business)

Dig This

Inside Detroit’s troubled Section 8 program

A Black woman in a pink shirt sits on a couch, staring out the window. Black drapes cover the windows behind her.
Latisha Neal has struggled to find stable housing with her DHC voucher for the past two years. Photo credit: Aaron Mondry

The time it takes the DHC to process paperwork for its largest voucher program is causing hardships for renters. It also appears to be driving landlords from the program and costing the DHC money it otherwise would not need to spend. Multiple landlords told Outlier they regularly wait months to receive payment. 

One renter said more than 10 landlords denied her voucher because it was from the DHC.

“Landlords don’t want to deal with (the Detroit Housing Commission),” she said. “And I don’t blame them.”

One Good Map

In parks we trust

A map of Detroit showing park access in the city. The areas in purple have less access — they cover about three-eighths of the map, mostly on the northwest and northeast sides.
A map showing Detroit areas in need of more park access. Image credit: Trust for Public Land

Parks provide a wealth of health benefits for people living near them as places to safely relax or exercise. 

Detroit’s parks unfortunately scored below average in city investment and resident access, according to a recent study from the Trust for Public Land. The city spends $77 per capita on parks, compared to a national average of $108. Overall, Detroit’s ranked 60 out of the 100 largest U.S. cities in its park system.

While the city’s equity score wasn’t so low, residents of color had access to 38% less total park space. The city received a higher-than-average score on residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park, but low scores on total acreage, investment and amenities.

See the map of areas in the city that could use greater park access.

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.