Michigan Land Use Institute

MLUI / Articles from 1995 to 2012 / NAACP, Institute Recommend: Better Transit, Housing and Race Relations

NAACP, Institute Recommend: Better Transit, Housing and Race Relations

Three crucial steps will accelerate Detroit’s renaissance

March 9, 2005 | By Charlene Crowell
Great Lakes Bulletin News Service

From its founding as a French fort in 1701, to its emergence as the world’s auto capital in the 1930s, to its population and production peak in the late 1950s, Detroit was a city with a booming local economy, a vibrant urban culture boasting strong retail activity, and richly diverse neighborhoods reflecting their residents’ ethnicity, culture, and customs.

Today too much of Detroit is but a faint echo of those golden years. Retail activity within the city is greatly diminished; the buses that replaced once-crowded trolleys have great trouble providing even adequate service; and neighborhoods that once reflected America’s ethnic diversity are today overwhelmingly African-American and poor.

In spite of such setbacks, Detroit seems to be moving forward again, particularly when it comes to rebuilding the city’s commercial, residential, industrial, and educational facilities.
After a long period when construction activity and building permit applications were almost non-existent, Detroit in the past year saw:

  • 3,005 building permits issued for projects totaling $368 million.
  • 4,400 new residential units under construction.
  • Brownfield redevelopment activity that attracted $224 million in new investment and generated  hundreds of new jobs.
  • An unprecedented multi-billion-dollar, citywide public school construction boom.

Despite such advances, much must still be done to make Detroit a world-class city again.

The Detroit Branch NAACP and the Michigan Land Use Institute recommend decisive action on three major issues:

Public Transportation
Without exception, the Detroit residents we talked to identified effective, efficient, and convenient regional public transportation as a “must” for moving the city forward. The real question is whether the public, particularly suburban residents, will support the cost of developing it.
Recommendation: Working with local officials, state lawmakers and the governor must quickly identify and establish a dedicated revenue source for the Detroit Area Regional Transportation Authority. Public transit cannot improve without this.
The new system must attain a level of service, convenience, and efficiency that exceeds anything metro Detroit has witnessed in recent decades. The system must market itself as a transportation mode that is desirable for all urban and suburban citizens, particularly commuters, not just the poor and those with disabilities.

Affordable Housing
In Michigan, a full-time worker must earn at least $13.31 an hour to afford a two-bedroom apartment at fair-market rent. This means that the rental of quality housing is well out of the reach of far too many Detroiters. The dream of home ownership is even farther away for many in Detroit, the country’s sixth-poorest city.
Recommendation: Greatly expand state-supported affordable housing opportunities to ensure that city residents can benefit from the
stability, security, community enrichment, and pride that accompanies home ownership.

Race Relations
The region’s modern-day re-segregation reflects both race and class. This not only perpetuates and increases racial stereotyping, fear, and animosity; it also guarantees that the city’s tax base remains insufficient for properly funding city government and services.
Recommendation: Develop mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhoods that allow easy access to residents’ daily needs while rebuilding Detroit’s badly eroded tax base.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
p (231) 941-6584 
e comments@mlui.org