Poverty Map Shows Extent of Michigan’s Lack of Affordable Housing

A new updated version of the Michigan Poverty and Well-being Map from Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed that statewide, 12.9 percent of the population are living on incomes below the federal poverty line.
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An updated Michigan Poverty and Well-being Map from U-M shows that affordable housing is one of the biggest economic issues facing metro Detroit. // Stock Photo
An updated Michigan Poverty and Well-being Map from U-M shows that affordable housing is one of the biggest economic issues facing metro Detroit. // Stock Photo

A new updated version of the Michigan Poverty and Well-being Map from Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor showed that statewide, 12.9 percent of the population are living on incomes below the federal poverty line.

“The poverty rate alone doesn’t tell a complete story of how many people are facing economic instability and hardship. The Michigan Poverty and Well-being Map looks at multiple metrics to give us a more holistic sense of Michiganders’ well-being,” says Luke Shaefer, Poverty Solutions faculty director, the Hermann and Amalie Kohn Professor of Social Justice and Social Policy, and a professor of public policy and social work.

Statewide data also showed that a higher percentage of children under the age of 18 — 17.5 percent — live in households below the federal poverty line. A new piece of data this year, 7.8 percent of working-age adults do not have health insurance coverage.

A series of regional factsheets highlight the need for increased access to childcare and health care, investments in transportation infrastructure, and more comprehensive affordable housing solutions in certain communities.

“The influx of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) provides a rare opportunity to address some of the underlying disparities and drivers of poverty in Michigan,” says Amanda Nothaft, senior data and evaluation manager at Poverty Solutions who led the data analysis for the map project. “The Poverty and Well-being Map can help local leaders make informed decisions about their communities’ most pressing needs.”

The Detroit metro region on the map — consisting of Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties — showed affordable housing plagues the region. To afford a typical two-bedroom apartment at market rate, an average hourly rate of $20.17 is required — or $38,726.40 per year at full-time. The current median hourly wage, however, falls several dollars short of this mark.

As a result, more than 40 percent of renting households in the area spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent, which is the threshold that defines affordable housing. In response to COVID-19, federal and state governments provided millions of dollars for emergency rental assistance, but long-term solutions will be necessary to solve the problem, according to Poverty Solutions.

Across the state, 30 percent of income-eligible families receive housing assistance and waitlists for aid are rarely open. Additionally, in Detroit, 82 percent of voucher-assisted families live in low-opportunity neighborhoods.

This is consistent with research showing that families with vouchers end up in areas with low opportunity and high poverty rates despite there being more availability of voucher-affordable rentals in high-opportunity areas. This anomaly is often caused by local rental discriminatory practices and drives voucher-assisted families away from available units in high-opportunity, low-poverty areas, Poverty Solutions states.

The regional fact sheet notes the Detroit metro region must ensure that housing suppliers and landlords follow Fair Housing Act guidelines. Oakland County recently launched its Fair Housing Commission Initiative to prevent source-of-income housing discrimination and help voucher-assisted families access stable and quality housing.

Housing assistance agencies should also implement programs to encourage landlords to accept vouchers and assist families with vouchers to move to areas of high opportunity and low poverty. In the long-term, the region should focus resources in low opportunity areas to increase incomes, safety, and quality of life, “thereby improving the places where many families using vouchers will continue to want to live.”

Longer-term, opportunities to make changes to policy and increase the supply of affordable housing are available through ARPA funding. There are plans to use $100 million in federal relief funds to support the development of affordable rental homes.

Detroit has promised $7 million of its federal relief dollars on top of a 2020 $48 million fund to support affordable housing development. These efforts are a step in the right direction to make the Detroit Metro region affordable for families with low incomes and provide them with opportunities for economic mobility, states Poverty Solutions.

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