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Data Driven Detroit (D3) provides accessible, high-quality information and analysis to drive decision-making that strengthens communities in Southeast Michigan.

Detroit Innovation Insights

Photo courtesy of Urban Innovation Exchange, December 2014.

Photo courtesy of Urban Innovation Exchange, December 2014.

Three years ago, D3 and Urban Innovation Exchange (UIX) set out to learn more about urban innovators and their impact projects in Detroit.  Since then, we’ve designed a powerful research model to document and map this ecosystem through primary data collection and network analysis.  Our research provides a picture of urban innovation in Detroit and offers important insights into innovators’ social attributes, perceptions of innovation, visions and plans, measures of success and impact, and the support systems and resources they access to start, scale, and sustain their projects.

As we close our third year, we’re excited to be sharing our most important data findings paired with UIX’s recommendations for building this movement in the 3-part, co-authored blog series Detroit Innovation Insights by D3′s Jessica McInchak and UIX’s Claire Nelson.  Access the series and start reading here!

Part 1 introduces the motivating forces that sparked our three-year research initiative; Part 2 explores the research methods we’ve used to track innovation and the data that inform each of our insights; and lastly, Part 3 shares how our findings are being used to generate new strategies for UIX and its allies to best support urban innovators and their work, in Detroit and beyond.

This blog series also follows the release of our fall presentation, found here.

City of Change: Dynamics and Impact Potential in Detroit’s Neighborhoods

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban, at D3, and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of Urban Planning at Wayne State University.

**Note: This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s master plan neighborhoods.  If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods to help orient yourself, please click here.

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What is the Neighborhood Dynamics Index?

The attractiveness of a neighborhood for investment is a function of an enormously complex range of attributes. Households and policymakers seeking to invest may consider a neighborhood’s accessibility to jobs, shopping, and public services as well as the cost of these services in terms of the tax burden. They may also consider the number of other residents living in a neighborhood, seeking to invest in areas with high levels of density and/or vitality (or areas with larger lots and quieter streets).

In an effort to capture at least some of the complexity of the investment decision, D3 has created a Neighborhood Dynamics Index that seeks to identify areas where potential investments will have a high impact and also appear more attractive.

Though the index can include a variety of factors, depending on the purpose for which it is calculated, this version of the Dynamics Index contains three equally weighted factors, each of which has already been the subject of a previous City of Change blog post:

  1. Average Condition of Residential Structures
  2. Density of Occupied Residential Structures
  3. Density of Mortgage Deeds

[You can find definitions for these factors at the bottom of this post]

MCI_DRPS_DynIndex

Figure 1: Neighborhood Dynamics Index, 2009

Once individual scores are calculated for each indicator, the three scores are averaged to create the Dynamics Index score. As in previous installments in this series, the data have been assembled and the index has been calculated for 840 Census block groups in the city of Detroit.

Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores in 2009

Figure 1 presents the distribution of Dynamics Index scores in 2009, divided into four equally populated ranges. The areas in the top category (representing the highest relative impact potential), which generally have above-average scores on all three measures, are found primarily in Northwest Detroit, the Cody Rouge community and the far East Side. In much of the central portion of Detroit, only five block groups are in the top range: two in Southwest Detroit, one north of Hamtramck and two on the near West Side. The highest-category block groups are often adjacent to areas in the second-highest range. The result is a gradual transition in many areas, rather than an abrupt transition from higher to lower scores.

Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores in 2014

The Dynamics Index scores for 2014 are fairly similar to the 2009 results (Figure 2). The number of block groups in the top category is just 10 fewer than five years earlier. However, the number of areas in the top category that are located west of M-39 (except the area north of Seven Mile) and east of Alter Road has noticeably decreased. In addition, traditionally stronger but lower-density neighborhoods such as Indian Village and Palmer Park have a much greater presence in the top two categories in 2014, compared to 2009. This change indicates a shifting balance away from Detroit’s denser, middle-income areas and toward the less-dense, but higher-income and still relatively stable communities. The area along Tireman, just north of Dearborn, also has more block groups in the top category. The number of block groups in the bottom range (the areas with the least relative impact potential) also decreased during this period, with corresponding increases in the middle two categories.

MCI_MCM_DynIndex

Figure 2: Neighborhood Dynamics Index, 2014

 

Changes in Neighborhood Dynamics Index Scores, 2009-2014

As indicated in Figure 3, increases in the Dynamics Index scores between 2009 and 2014 were widespread across the city. Many of the block groups with increases are located in areas that had low scores in 2009 – the near West Side, the Midtown area and much of the East Side – and, despite these absolute gains, many of these neighborhoods continue to be in the lower half of the relative distribution.  However, portions of Woodbridge and Midtown have surged into the top half of block groups, likely as a result of the highly organized redevelopment efforts taking place in those communities. Scores also improved in traditionally stable areas such as Palmer Park, Rosedale, and Indian Village.

Number of Block Groups
Range20092014Change
0.64 to 2.39 (Highest Index Score)210199-11
0.00 to 0.63210223+13
-0.64 to -0.01210229+19
-2.32 to -0.65 (Lowest Index Score)210189-21

Much of the decline in Dynamics Index Scores was concentrated in the still relatively stable neighborhoods of Cody and Rouge, near Dearborn, and Finney and Denby, on the far East Side. While these areas generally remained within the top two ranges of block groups, the decline in Dynamics Index scores relative to other portions of the city is concerning, and indicates that these neighborhoods may be in danger of tipping into a spiral of more consistent decline.

MCI_DynIndex_Change

Figure 3: Changes in Neighborhood Dynamics Index Score, 2009-2014

Conclusion

The Neighborhood Dynamics Index is by no means intended as the sole tool to be used when making investment decisions. However, the in-depth analysis that it represents allows D3 to drill deeper into the data than would be possible by looking at each indicator in isolation. In addition, the Dynamics Index doesn’t only identify areas of high investment potential, it also allows us to track how Detroit’s neighborhoods have changed relative to each other, and, through its individual components, helps identify why these specific changes may have taken place.

Overall, the Dynamics Index results are somewhat more encouraging than the results for its individual components. Because the three components of the Dynamics Index change in different ways in different areas, there has been little change in the relative distribution of the block groups.  The tendency has been for block groups to move closer toward the middle (fewer in either the highest or lowest ranges) rather than experience the general downward shift that can be seen in the scores for each of the individual factors.

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Factors We Used in the Neighborhood Dynamics Index

Average Condition of Residential Structures. The physical condition of the residential structures in an area reflects how well the homes and apartment buildings have been maintained, regardless of the age of the housing stock. The presence of blight in a neighborhood is a sign of disinvestment, while well-maintained older homes reflect continued interest of residents in the neighborhood.

In recent years, two separate assessments have been made of the condition of housing in Detroit. In the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey, D3 rated the structural condition of all one- to four-unit residential properties on a four-point scale. The Motor City Mapping initiative undertook a similar survey of all residential (and commercial) structures in 2014.

Density of Occupied Residential Structures. Neighborhoods in which most of the residential structures have at least one unit occupied reflect continued market interest in that area. These areas also represent Detroit’s remaining areas of relatively dense population, where new investments and interventions have a stronger chance of affecting a large number of people.

The 2009 and 2014 structural condition surveys also provide information on the occupancy status of each structure. The measure created by D3 for incorporation into the Neighborhood Dynamics Index is the number of occupied structures per square mile.

Density of Mortgage Deeds. The number of mortgage deeds recorded in a specific neighborhood reflects positive regard by financial institutions. Though there are a number of different reasons why mortgage lending activity in a neighborhood might be low, the areas that enjoy higher levels of interest and support from financial institutions are often more attractive for investment.

The measure of mortgage density included in the Neighborhood Dynamics Index represents the number of mortgage deeds recorded per square mile. Each value is based on two years of data, for 2008-09 and 2012-13. The absolute number of mortgage recordings is very low across much of the city in each period. Areas with relatively high levels of mortgage activity are thus particularly noteworthy.

City of Change: Detroit’s Continuing Mortgage Crisis

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of urban planning at Wayne State University.

**Note:  This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s master plan neighborhoods. If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods to help orient yourself, please click here.

Overview

This edition of City of Change examines the density of mortgage deeds (the number of mortgage deeds per square mile), since mortgage activity is one of the strongest indicators of a neighborhood’s investment potential. Regardless of the purpose of the mortgage deed, the presence of mortgage activity can indicate a commitment by residents to remain in a neighborhood and can identify interest and confidence from other market actors as well.

For this analysis, mortgage activity is defined as any mortgage deed filed to a property, regardless of its purpose. These deeds may include new mortgages (indicating investment by new residents) as well as refinanced mortgages or second mortgages (indicating investment by current residents who plan to remain in their home). As with previous installments of City of Change, the data have been summarized for 840 Census block groups in the city of Detroit. The mortgage deed data are based on D3’s analysis of transactional data purchased from the Wayne County Register of Deeds and encompass two time periods: 2008-09 and 2012-13. To remain consistent with other installments of City of Change, this analysis excludes block groups with fewer than 10 residential structures surveyed in the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey.

It is important to note that recorded mortgage deeds are not the sole measure of neighborhood residential sales activity. Many of the sales transactions in Detroit are cash sales or land contracts, with no mortgage involved. According to American Community Survey data, only about 55 percent of owner-occupied housing units in Detroit have a mortgage. Nevertheless, mortgage lending continues to be a primary indicator of market strength and represents a reliable proxy for overall market interest in a neighborhood.

Mortgage Activity in 2008-09

In 2008-09, the median mortgage density was roughly 100 deeds per square mile; that is, in 2008-09 half of all Detroit block groups had a mortgage density greater than 100. For individual areas, the density ranged from zero (no mortgages in the two-year period) to more than 550 mortgages per square mile. Figure 1 shows the mortgage density for each block group, divided into four equal ranges.

Figure 1:

MCI_DRPS_MortgageDensity

This map shows mortgage deeds per square mile in 2008-09, divided into four equal ranges. The areas with the greatest amount of activity are the Far East, Northwest, and Far West portions of Detroit.

Mortgage activity in this period was generally concentrated in block groups in northwest Detroit, the Cody Rouge area, and the far east side, in the Finney and Denby master planning neighborhoods. The density of mortgage activity for most of the East Side between Woodward and Detroit City Airport falls in the lowest range. The same is true on the West Side, around and south of the Tireman master planning neighborhood.

Mortgage Activity in 2012-13

Across the city of Detroit, mortgage densities were also substantially lower in 2012-13 than in 2008-09, as shown in Table 1. The top range of block groups, which included 210 areas in 2008-09, contained only 62 block groups in 2012-13, a decrease of more than 70 percent. The bottom range, meanwhile, contained nearly 100 percent more block groups than it had in 2008-09.

Table 1: Change in Mortgage Deeds per Square Mile, 2008-09 to 2012-13

Number of Block Groups
Mortgage Deeds per Square Mile2008-092012-13Change
185 or Higher21062-148
99 to 184210150-60
46 to 98210216+6
45 or Fewer210412+202

Figure 2 shows the geographic magnitude of these differences. Though certain areas of the Rosedale, Bagley, Palmer Park, and Finney master planning neighborhoods have remained in the top category, many others, including virtually all of Denby and Cody Rouge, are no longer in the top range.

Figure 2:

MCI_MCM_MortgageDensity

This map shows mortgage deeds per square mile in 2012-13, using the same ranges as 2008-09. The density of mortgage activity has contracted significantly in many areas across the city. Only a few areas – in particular, Indian Village and portions of Greater Downtown – clearly have greater mortgage density than in 2008-09.

Changes in Mortgages per Square Mile from 2008-09 to 2012-13

From 2008-09 to 2012-13, mortgage density declined in 685 block groups and remained the same in just 36. Only 119 block groups (14.2 percent) recorded an increase in mortgage deeds per square mile. As seen in Figure 3, these block groups are scattered across the city and include historic districts (Indian Village, Palmer Park, and Corktown) and middle-class neighborhoods (East Riverside and Rosedale). In the Corktown, Jeffries, and Lower Woodward master planning neighborhoods, the increase may be related to new residential construction activity. As seen in Figure 3, the block groups where there have been increases between the two-year periods in mortgage deeds per square mile include areas that recorded low mortgage densities in 2008-09 and those that were already active markets.

Meanwhile, the Finney/Denby and Cody Rouge master planning neighborhoods include many block groups that had high mortgage densities in 2008-09 but fell below the median by 2012-13. Several of the block groups west of Van Dyke (M-53) recorded substantial increases in mortgages per square mile but nevertheless remained in the bottom range.

Figure 3:

MCI_MortgageDensity_Change

This map shows the change in mortgage deeds per square mile from 2008-09 to 2012-13. Increases have been limited mainly to the Greater Downtown area, the Woodward and Jefferson corridors, and the Rosedale Park neighborhood in Northwest Detroit.

It is important to recognize that this analysis is based on the ratio of mortgage recordings to geographic area during the two-year periods. Between 2008-09 and 2012-13, the number of recorded mortgages fell from 12,285 to 7,535, a decline of almost 39 percent. In 2012-13, there were only 52 block groups where more than 25 mortgages were recorded and just 10 where the number of new mortgages was greater than 50.

The median mortgage density has also declined substantially between the two-year periods. In 2012-13, it was just 46 mortgages per square mile, a decline of more than 50 percent from roughly 100 per square mile in 2008-09. In addition, while four block groups reported no mortgage activity in 2008-09, this number had swelled to 48 by 2012-13.

Conclusions

In summary, although 2008-09 was the beginning of the national mortgage crisis, Detroit’s experience then was much better than it was in 2012-13, when many other areas of the country had recovered.  The citywide average mortgage density in 2012-13 was about 72 per square mile, compared to a residential structure density of about 1,800 per square mile. Moderate levels of mortgage activity occur in only a handful of areas in Detroit, and areas with increasing interest in mortgage investment appear to be confined largely to the city’s core, its historic neighborhoods, and a few other block groups scattered throughout the city.

City of Change will return next week with a look at Data Driven Detroit’s Dynamics Index, which is designed to identify areas of highest potential investment within the city.

City of Change – Occupancy Density in Detroit’s Residential Neighborhoods

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit (D3) blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014. This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, professor emeritus of urban planning at Wayne State University. 

**Note:  This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s Master Plan Neighborhoods. If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods to help orient yourself, please click here.

Overview

This edition of City of Change analyzes the density of occupied residential structures (the number of residential structures per square mile that are occupied) and uses this indicator as a proxy for population.  Many neighborhoods in Detroit have endured increasing emptiness since 1960, though some areas of considerable density do remain. If these neighborhoods suffer decline, the potential impact on the city in terms of lost population and revenue is far greater than decline in areas of lower density.

As in the previous installment of City of Change, the data have been summarized for 840 census block groups in the city of Detroit. To account for differences in the size of the block groups, the analysis measures the number of occupied residential structures per square mile. The occupancy rates are based on data collected by the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS) in 2009 and Motor City Mapping in 2014.

Occupancy in 2009

Detroit had an average of just over 2,100 occupied residential structures per square mile in 2009. This figure represents a substantial decline (almost 43 percent) from a peak of 3,675 structures per square mile in 1960 (based on archival Census data). The declines over that half-century have been severe across the city — just 18 block groups in 2009, out of 840 total, had occupancy densities greater than the 1960 citywide average.

There was considerable variation evident across block groups, with densities ranging from 51 to more than 4,500 occupied residential structures per square mile. It is important to note that some block groups with low residential densities contain large parcels with industrial, institutional or commercial land uses (parks, cemeteries, factories, etc.). In these areas, residential density is below average, regardless of the vacancy rate. In block groups that are predominantly residential, however, a low occupancy rate can reflect both a predominance of vacant lots and a high number of vacant residential structures.

The highest occupancy densities were generally found on the Far East Side (particularly in the Finney and Denby neighborhoods), the Northwest Side, and in neighborhoods close to Dearborn (particularly the Cody Rouge area). The relatively high density in these latter block groups was likely affected by the expansion of the growing immigrant population in Dearborn. Although many of the areas closest to downtown were not included in the DRPS project boundaries, areas closest to the city center possessed some of the lowest densities. Even along the east riverfront, occupancy levels were primarily in the bottom two ranges.

Figure 1:

MCI_DRPS_OccupiedStructures

This map shows the density of occupied residential structures per square mile in Detroit based on data from the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey. Note that the Detroit Residential Parcel Survey only collected information for 1-4 unit residential structures.

Occupancy in 2014

Continued population decline over the past five years, along with increased demolition activity, brought the average density of occupied residential structures down to 1,860 in 2014, almost 12 percent below the 2009 figure and less than half the peak density of 1960. As indicated in Table 1, the number of block groups in the highest-density range decreased by 77, or more than 35 percent. The lowest-density block group had just 18 occupied residential structures per square mile.

Table 1: Change in Density of Occupied Structures

Number of Block Groups
Occupied Structures per Square Mile20092014Change
2,850 or Higher210133-77
2,166 to 2,849210197-13
1,411 to 2,165210216+6
1,410 or Lower210294+84

The decline in occupancy occurred across the city. While the same general areas continued to have the highest occupancy densities, many of the block groups shifted from the highest to the second-highest category, indicating that even denser neighborhoods are experiencing depopulation. Declines are particularly noticeable on the East Side, including much of the Osborn area (identified as a portion of the Mt. Olivet Master Planning neighborhood). Densities remained high in areas with large immigrant populations, including the area just north of Hamtramck. There are even fewer block groups than in 2009 that are close to the city center and have residential occupancy densities higher than the lowest range.

Figure 2:

MCI_MCM_OccupiedStructures

This map shows occupied structures per square mile in 2014, using the same ranges as the map from 2009. Note the considerable decrease in the number of block groups in top range. This decrease is even more notable when considering that the Motor City Mapping survey expanded upon the DRPS to encompass all residential structures.

Absolute Changes in Residential Density Between 2009 and 2014

Between 2009 and 2014, only 90 block groups recorded an increase in residential structures per square mile; 10 recorded no change, and 740 recorded a decline. Thirteen percent of all block groups reported declines of more than 600 units per square mile in only five years. Areas with increasing occupancy densities are found along the Woodward Corridor and the Near West Side (Woodbridge and Corktown areas), which have been the focal points of several residential investment initiatives. Elsewhere in the city, some of the higher-density block groups in 2009 did observe an increase in residential occupancy density, but these areas are somewhat randomly distributed.

Figure 3:

MCI_OS_Change

This map shows block groups that saw either an increase or a decrease/no change in occupied structures per square mile from 2009 to 2014. The block groups in the latter category accounted for nearly 90% of all block groups studied in this analysis.

To a large extent, the decline in occupancy density is a result of a rise in vacancies, rather than a decline in the number of residential structures. In 2009, the average residential occupancy density was 82 percent of its maximum potential (that is, if every residential structure in the block group were occupied). In 2014, the average was just 73 percent of the maximum potential. The number of block groups where the occupancy density was less than half of the potential increased from just five in 2009 to 44 in 2014.

Conclusions

The past five-year period has seen a substantial decrease in the density of occupied residential structures in Detroit. Since the number of new homes built during this period was relatively low, the lower densities are the result of higher vacancy rates in the existing housing stock. A net increase in the number of households occurred in just 10.6 percent of the block groups. These trends seem to suggest that, aside from scattered pockets throughout the city, the population declines that have characterized the past fifty years in Detroit – culminating in the 25 percent decline in population from 2000 to 2010 – are continuing. Future policies should recognize this trend and, in addition to aiming to reverse the decline, should address the potential that it may continue in the future.

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City of Change will return in two weeks with an in-depth examination of mortgage deeds and residential market health in Detroit’s neighborhoods over the past five years.

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The Motor City Mapping data referenced in this article are available in their raw format on the Data Driven Detroit (D3) Open Data Portal – http://portal.datadrivendetroit.org.

City of Change – Evolution in the Condition of Detroit’s Housing Stock

City of Change is a Data Driven Detroit blog series analyzing changes in Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 through 2014.  This series is a collaborative effort between Noah Urban at D3 and Gary Sands, Professor Emeritus of Urban Planning at Wayne State University.  This week, the series examines variation and change in Detroit’s residential structure condition.

**Note:  This blog post will make several references to Detroit’s Master Plan Neighborhoods.  If you would like to view a reference map of these neighborhoods, please click here.

What is Average Residential Structure Condition?

The Motor City Mapping project is a survey of Detroit properties that was completed in early 2014, providing information on some 380,000 individual parcels in the city.  This survey recorded whether each parcel had a structure on it, the condition of the structure, and whether or not the building was occupied. This information has also been summarized for the roughly 880 census block groups in Detroit (each block group includes several contiguous blocks).

Much of the data from Motor City Mapping can be compared to the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey (DRPS) conducted by Data Driven Detroit and its partners.  Though the earlier survey was limited to 1-4 unit residential properties, it is possible to compare the structural condition data for about 840 block groups at two points in time, from 2009 to 2014.  For every structure surveyed, the property’s condition was assigned a value from 1 to 4 with 1 indicating the best possible condition.  To account for differences in size of block groups, we created a weighted average of block group condition by summing condition values for all residential structures in the block group and then dividing the total by the total number of residential structures in the block group.  Values closer to 1 indicate stronger average condition, while a value closer to 2 (or even below 2) indicates an area with much poorer structural condition.

Average Residential Structure Condition in 2009

In general, the condition of residential structures is related to their age.  Many block groups with the strongest average condition were found at the outer edges of the city, while many of those with the poorest-condition housing stock were located in older neighborhoods just outside of the core of the city (Figure 1). An exception is evident in northwest Detroit, where the Brightmoor neighborhood stands out as a pocket of blight located between more stable areas.  This may be due to the wood-frame, 1950’s housing construction that once abandoned, has decayed at a faster rate than in other areas of the city where the construction typically incorporates greater amounts of stone or brick.

Figure 1:

MCI_DRPS_AvgCond

This map shows Detroit’s residential average housing condition based on data from the 2009 Detroit Residential Parcel Survey. Note the clustering of stronger-condition neighborhoods on the edges of the city.

With limited exceptions, the area south of the Ford Freeway (Interstate 94) included very few block groups in the highest two ranges.  The few such neighborhoods with better average condition ratings included the Far East Side (particular the Finney Master Plan Neighborhood), some areas of the East Riverside and Indian Village neighborhoods, and portions of Corktown, Hubbard Richard, Vernor/Junction, and Springwells in Southwest Detroit.

There was typically a gradual transition between the average condition ratings in adjacent neighborhoods.  That is, neighborhoods in the top range were typically bordered by neighborhoods in the first or second categories.  There were, however, a few instances where block groups with the strongest average condition were adjacent to those with the weakest average condition.  Particularly prominent examples existed on either side of Woodward north of 7 Mile, as well as some of the block groups on the borders of the Brightmoor and Rosedale neighborhoods.

Average Residential Structure Condition in 2014, Compared to 2009

By the time that the Motor City Mapping Survey took place, conditions had changed considerably in many portions of the city.  The average condition rating for each of the block groups in 2014 is shown in Figure 2.   While the overall geographic concentrations of good and poor quality housing are similar to 2009, there are some important differences.  Southwest Detroit has seen a decline in housing condition, and the blight that was evident around Brightmoor in northwest Detroit and the Gratiot-McNichols area in northeast Detroit seems to be spreading.  The Rosedale and Cerveny/Grandmont Master Plan Neighborhoods (which contain Grandmont-Rosedale) are no longer solidly in the top range of block groups, and similar declines can be seen in the Finney Master Plan Neighborhood, which includes East English Village.  Both of these areas have resisted the encroachment of nearby blight, but these data indicate that even traditionally-stable neighborhoods are experiencing some degree of erosion.

Figure 2:

MCI_MCM_AvgCond

This map shows average residential structure condition in 2014, using the same categories as the map from 2009. Note the significant decline in average condition that is visible on the far western side of the city, particularly in the Cody Rouge area (west of M-39, south of I-96).

There was substantial movement between the categories defined in 2009 and 2014, as shown in Table 1.  The top two ranges contained a net total of 79 fewer areas, a decrease of nearly 19%.  The growth in the range with the weakest average condition – an increase of 70 block groups – is particularly concerning, and indicates that an increasing number of neighborhoods across the city may be entering steeper spirals of structural decline.

Table 1:  Change in Residential Structure Condition

Number of Block Groups
Average Condition Rating20092014Change
1.05 or lower (strongest)210150-60
1.06-1.15210191-19
1.16-1.35210219+9
1.36 or higher (weakest)210280+70

Absolute Changes in Residential Condition from 2009 to 2014

The two surveys recorded a small overall decline in the average residential condition rating for the city of Detroit, from an average rating of 1.23 to 1.27 in 2014.  As shown in Figure 3, more than 500 block groups observed declines in average condition, while 315 saw an improvement or no change. Much of the improvement occurred on the East Side, including some of the neighborhoods with the poorest structural conditions in 2009.  Considering that many of these areas have been identified by city planning processes as high-vacancy, it is likely that much of the observed increase is due to demolition of blighted structures, rather than as a result of new construction or rehabilitation.

Figure 3:

MCI_AvgCond_Change

This map shows block groups that had an increase/no change or a decrease in average residential structure condition from 2009 to 2014. Note that many of the improvements were in the areas that had the weakest average condition in 2009 and 2014, indicating that these trends may be due more to demolition activity than new construction or improving physical condition.

Studying the data based on the ranges defined in 2009 reveals additional insights.  Most of the block groups in that were in the top category in 2009 experienced a decline in average condition rating; only one in eight showed improvement.  In contrast, over 60% of the neighborhoods in the weakest category in 2009 observed an improvement in average condition.  In 2009, 25% of block groups had 95%+ of structures rated in good condition.  By 2014, this number had declined by 20%, and the number of block groups where less than two-thirds of all structures received a good rating increased from 202 to 269.  The average score in the top quarter of block groups declined by 0.042 while the average in the bottom quarter showed an improvement of 0.036.

Conclusions

Although five years is a relatively short time in the life of a city, there has been a noticeable decline in the average condition of residential structures since 2009.  The areas where the best-quality housing predominates are shrinking, while the pockets of blight are growing. While there are large areas where the average structural condition rating has improved, this appears to have most often been the result of the demolition of the poorest-condition homes.   In general, the changing landscape of average residential structure condition illustrates a concerning trend in the city that must be reversed if Detroit’s neighborhoods are to have any chance at recovery.

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Next week, City of Change will examine occupancy in Detroit’s neighborhoods, and the changing patterns of where the city’s residents call home.

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The Motor City Mapping data are available in their raw format on the Data Driven Detroit (D3) Open Data Portal – http://portal.datadrivendetroit.org.

Introducing City of Change – A window into Detroit’s residential neighborhoods from 2009 to 2014

2009 2013

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This morning, Kurt was honored at a breakfast at Detroit’s Rattlesnake Club. Friends and colleagues praised his accomplishments and thanked him for his work using data to make [Read on...]

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