Detroit Today: Two Detroit initiatives are working to provide affordable housing through creative design

With limited access to affordable housing, Dreamtroit and Three Squared, Inc. are looking at how we design living spaces to save costs.

Interior of a Dreamtroit appartment, with a kitchen, a large window and exposed brick with graffiti-style art

Inside a Dreamtroit apartment.

With a median household income far below the statewide average, Detroiters face a relentless struggle to keep up with rising rents, often paying more than 30% of their income just to secure shelter. 

As rising housing costs strain public access to affordable housing, could the way we design housing help provide more solutions in the city? Two local initiatives, Dreamtroit and Three Squared, Inc., join Detroit Today to discuss.

Subscribe to Detroit Today on Apple PodcastsSpotify, Google Podcasts, or wherever you get your podcasts.


Matthew Naimi is a co-creator of Dreamtroit, a creative community of affordable housing in the Elijah McCoy neighborhood. He is also the director of operations at Recycle Here!. Naimi says that much of Dreamtroit was hyper specific to the situation in the neighborhood, and that forms of affordable housing can look different in different contexts.

“This housing is for a certain slice of Detroit,” says Naimi. “There’s a lot of solutions. And this is one for a particular slice of the creative class.”

Oren Goldenberg is another co-creator of Dreamtroit and is also a filmmaker. Goldenberg mentions that what is often considered “affordable” for Detroiters is actually based on averages between Detroit, Warren and Dearborn. This isn’t always affordable for Detroiters even if the property is deemed specifically for those of “low-income.”

“What we’ve seen… was that what is considered affordable is not necessarily affordable for folks in our community,” says Goldenberg.

Breck Crandell is the director of design for Three Squared, Inc., an architecture firm that focuses on technology to build mixed-use spaces. While Three Squared is trying to create affordable housing, he says the firm doesn’t want to take away from the aesthetic and quality of life in a neighborhood: culture, community and beauty can and should co-exist in affordable housing.

“What you want to avoid is when you get into affordable housing, that scale of economy overrides the whole conversation,” says Crandell.

Trusted, accurate, up-to-date.

WDET strives to make our journalism accessible to everyone. As a public media institution, we maintain our journalistic integrity through independent support from readers like you. If you value WDET as your source of news, music and conversation, please make a gift today.

Donate today »


  • Detroit Today
    Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.