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Pandemic Worsens Detroit’s Housing Crisis, Affecting Tenants and Landlords

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Image credit: Laura Herberg/WDET

New research shows Detroit was already experiencing widespread housing insecurity, the pandemic is set to make matters worse.

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Detroit was already facing a housing crisis prior to the coronavirus pandemic, which has only compounded underlying housing issues.

We’re talking about a level of instability in the city of Detroit over a long period of time that is unsustainable.” — Jennifer Erb-Downward

New research from Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan suggests more tenant protections are desperately needed to prevent massive housing insecurity in Detroit.

Listen: How COVID-19 Exacerbated an Existing Housing Crisis in Detroit


Jennifer Erb-Downward, senior research associate for Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan, says roughly 88,000 Detroiters were forced from their homes last year via eviction and foreclosure.

We’re talking about a level of instability in the city of Detroit over a long period of time that is unsustainable,” says Erb-Downward.

In response to the pandemic, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has placed a moratorium on evictions set to expire mid-June. Erb-Downward says this freeze is only a small piece of the puzzle.

A moratorium on evictions is really just a first and temporary step. Otherwise, we’re just pushing back the time that we’re going to see a flood of evictions,” says Erb-Downward. 

Matthew Paletz, a Metro Detroit attorney who represents landlords and property owners, says that landlords are struggling as a result of the eviction moratorium, many of whom are small business owners.

We don’t need landlords to be unstable, that’s the bottom line.” — Matthew Paletz, attorney

There’s a lot of anxiety about being able to keep the property, about being able to make the mortgage payments,” says Paletz.

He acknowledges the dilemma many tenants are facing and says vacancies during a health crisis is not something he or his clients want to see. He hopes to see a collaboration between property owners and tenants and some type of support for landlords after the eviction freeze is lifted.

We don’t need landlords to be unstable, that’s the bottom line,” says Paletz. 

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This post is a part of Coronavirus in Michigan.

101.9 WDET, Detroit’s NPR Station, is committed to providing accurate, up-to-date information on coronavirus, and it's related illness COVID-19, in Michigan. 

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