Report: Homeownership for Immigrants in Detroit Could Help Stabilize City, Barriers Still Present

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Immigrants in Detroit are just as eager as nonimmigrants to own homes.
Immigrants in Detroit are just as eager as nonimmigrants to own homes but often lack awareness of necessary steps, according to a study by Global Detroit. Pictured above are immigrants Myra and her daughter Rebecca in front of their home. // Photograph Courtesy of Global Detroit

Global Detroit Wednesday released a study that shows immigrant Detroit residents are as eager to become homeowners as nonimmigrant Detroit residents. The findings show a new potential for stabilizing Detroit neighborhoods.

The study, “Immigrant Housing in Detroit,” also highlights barriers that may explain lower homeownership rates among Detroit immigrants, including less awareness of credit scores and lower usage of bank accounts. Global Detroit has called for increased investment and outreach in connecting these residents with financial literacy training, coaching, and resources as means for expanding homeownership.

“We are working every day to build a Detroit that welcomes everyone and gives longstanding Detroiters, immigrants, and newcomers the opportunities to build the American Dream right here in our city,” says Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. “Global Detroit’s research highlights how investing in residents can help us rebuild our neighborhoods one family and one house at a time.”

The report follows research conducted in 2016 on the home-buying potential of immigrant families in 23 Rust Belt cities. The study, conducted with the Fiscal Policy Institute and released by the Welcoming Economies Global Network, documents how immigrants were the only growing source of population in most Rust Belt cities and, based on existing rental patterns and incomes, had higher potential to afford a new home.

Individually, immigrants have lower incomes than nonimmigrant Detroiters, but their households tend to have more wage-earners.

“The only significant growing source of population in Detroit and southeast Michigan, like most places in the Midwest and many across America, is through immigration,” says Steve Tobocman, executive director of Global Detroit and one of the study’s principal authors. “Our research indicates that building more inclusive financial literacy, budgeting, banking, and homeownership programs will pay tremendous dividends for increasing homeownership in Detroit.”

The study was conducted through in-person and online surveys of 200 residents. Volunteers and Global Detroit staff went door-to-door and attended block-club and neighborhood group meetings and events, church and mosque services, financial literacy workshops, English as a second language classes, and resource fairs.

Those surveyed were from downtown, Midtown, North End, neighborhoods along the riverfront, and some outer parts of the city. The geographic dispersion of survey respondents was representative of the larger distribution of residents across the city.

Global Detroit is a regional economic development initiative focused on immigrant potential. It has demonstrated how inclusive practices can improve outcomes in entrepreneurship and talent programs and plans to use the study’s results to advocate for inclusive practices in financial literacy, homeownership, and other asset-building endeavors.

The organization has launched programs in international student talent retention, professional talent connection, immigrant entrepreneurship, and neighborhood revitalization. It spearheaded an 11-state regional collaborative of more than 20 peer local immigrant economic development initiatives across the Rust Belt.

The study is available here. More information on Global Detroit is available here.

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