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Midtown housing incentive comes to an end, putting low-income renters at risk

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The “Stay Midtown” program dispersed $800,000 in subsidies over three years

A multi-story rectangular brick building with a cul-de-sac in front. Photo by Michelle Gerard

A program meant to help Midtown residents stabilize their living situation as rents increased is coming to an end. That’s put the neighborhood’s low-income renters in a difficult situation.

The program, Stay Midtown, has been administered by local nonprofit developer Midtown Detroit, Inc. since 2016. The Detroit Free Press reports that it dispersed $800,000 in rent subsidies over that time to 150 households with an annual median income between $24,000 and $38,000. The recipients, of which 88 percent are black, got up to $125 per month.

Midtown has seen escalating rental rates for years. Wayne State University students have had trouble finding affordable apartments as occupancy rates have been as high as 98 percent. Units currently advertised on Zillow range from a one-bedroom apartment going for $800 to a two-bedroom unit in a fourplex going for $2,800.

The rent crunch is forcing low-income renters in particular to make tough decisions. “My rent keeps increasing, but my income is not increasing that much,” a health care worker told the Free Press. She hadn’t decided whether she would pay the additional $125 per month to stay in her apartment. Midtown’s central location allows her to live car-free and save on car insurance.

Sue Mosey, executive director of Midtown Detroit, said that rental rates have been increasing, but by more moderate amounts the last few years. She’s also encouraged by the city’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance, which requires developers of multi-family buildings who receive city subsidies or land to reserve 20 percent of their units for those who make 80 percent of the Area Median Income (around $45,000), and estimates that about 300 new “affordable” units are available or under construction.

But Detroit’s median income is a little over $31,000 and the poverty rate is still 33 percent. That still leaves many Detroit residents severely rent burdened and paying 50 percent or more of their income on rent. Almost all of those are the 150 households who made use of the Stay Midtown program.