Nearly 38K Detroit households lived in 'inadequate' housing this past year, study finds

Posted at 2:07 PM, Oct 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-22 18:34:05-04

(WXYZ) — "It's a lot of houses, they need repairs, and people, they just don't have the money to repair them," said Dave Strong.

Strong is like a lot of Detroiters, living in a home that needs work. His landlord is a relative, and he knows she cannot afford to make the repairs. He says the newer roof, which is actually 12 years old, is helping save the home.

"The house has a lot of cracks. And when it's windy, it's really cold."

Wilma Ruffin, a retired casino worker, is on a fixed income and can't even afford the maintenance on her near century old home, let alone repairs.

"The pipes are old and I don't have money to fix them," said Ruffin. "I need work on my plumbing in the basement."

Ruffin's sister Felicia Davis said seniors should be able to live without having to worry about looming repairs.

"To me, the seniors have paid a debt to society, and they should be able to live more comfortably," she said.

Results of a new study from the University of Michigan found the need for home repairs in the city of Detroit is greater than previous research showed. Lydia Wileden, a researcher for the Detroit Metro Area Communities study authored the new U-M report.

"One woman said I'm elderly and I don't know where to get it, and I need help," said Wileden.

The research also looks at the city's Renew Detroit Program that, in its first phase, will use federal dollars to help 1,000 low income seniors and those with disabilities make repairs to their roofs.

Graph: Detroit Metro Area Communities Study

"We know if you don't have a good roof on your head, you're gonna have other issues with inside the house. So we're really just trying to stabilize as quickly as possible," said Heather Zygmontowicz, Chief of Special Housing Programs for the City of Detroit.

Zygmontowicz heads up Detroit's special housing programs, and she says they know the need for home repairs is great. So they're targeting homeowners who are the most vulnerable, those who have lived in their homes the longest.

"Our household stock is actively deteriorating. And so if you're on that fixed income, it's that much harder to respond to home repair needs," she said.

And U-M's study found that homeowners and renters are affected.

"We got a lot of tenants coming to us that live in really damaged housing ... the landlords often get away with it, because they know that a lot of the tenants are desperate for affordable housing, and they will accept housing that is really below standard," said Joe McGuire of Detroit Eviction Defense.

Graph: Detroit Metro Area Communities Study

"We saw that 18% of households with children said that they lived in inadequate quality housing, and those houses may not have a senior as their head of household and may not have someone living there with disability. And they are locked out of the Renew Detroit Program," said Wileden.

For more information on the Renew Detroit Program, click here.

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