Reporters Joel Kurth, Laura Herberg: Detroit Suffers from Lack of Home Mortgages

Jake Neher/WDET

More people in Detroit bought houses with mortgages last year than in 2015. Still, the vast majority of houses sold were paid for in cash.

WDET plotted these sales on a map and found that in the Livernois Avenue and McNichols area, there’s a split. Houses on the east side of Livernois are mostly financed by mortgages, whereas those on the west side are purchased mostly with cash.

As part of our collaboration with Bridge Magazine, WDET’s Laura Herberg visited the two Northwest Detroit neighborhoods to see what this division looks like on the ground.

Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson speaks with Herberg, as well as Joel Kurth, reporter at Bridge Magazine about what this means for Detroiters.

You hear the steady drumbeat of stories about Detroit’s comeback,” says Kurth. “But this is really sort of cold water to that [showing] just how far you have to go. I think it really paints a picture of this ‘have and have nots’ narrative that we’re hearing time and again in Detroit… People who are typically buying things with cash tend to be investors, tend to be landlords. This is a city that, not too long ago, had one of the highest homeownership rates among African Americans. It was really a pillar and point of pride for the nation… and we rapidly are becoming more so a city of renters, which is not what you want to be.”

[Click here to hear Herberg’s full WDET story and view an interactive map of Detroit mortgage and cash sales]

Kurth believes that the picture is encouraging, overall, explaining that if Detroit is at ground zero, then “anything is up.” Still, it might be hard to tell what these changes in the housing market will really mean in the long run.

It’s interesting to see if the scales are going to be tipped,” says Herberg, “because cash sales tend to beget cash sales. And mortgages… when they happen at a higher price point, when somebody is able to renovate a home through some of the programs that are out there, then in theory, that will lead to more mortgages.”

To hear the full conversation on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson, click the audio player above.

Image credit: Laura Herberg / WDET

Filed Under: #djc

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



About the Author

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.  

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