people posing for a picture inside a home
Jelani Bayi worked with realtor Brittany Gardner in 2021 to find a Tudor-style home in Detroit’s Rosedale Park neighborhood. (Photo by Valaurian Waller)

When Jelani Bayi decided to purchase property in Detroit he looked for a home that was spacious, well-maintained and updated. He also wanted to be in a safe neighborhood with access to quality amenities like grocery stores, good schools and services.

Bayi, who grew up in Detroit’s University District, knew the city before the economic downturn and remained in the area after completing his undergraduate and master’s degrees. Throughout his 20s, Bayi rented housing in downtown Detroit and Southfield as rental prices increased. In 2021, Bayi accepted a consulting position that paid him a living wage and helped him afford a home in the city where he grew up.

“I love my city. I love living in Detroit. I love the culture and I love how Black my city is,” Bayi said. “I love how we’re improving and enhancing.”

man standing in a huge closet
Jelani Bayi wanted an updated and spacious home that he could make his own. He turned one of the bedrooms into an expansive primary closet. (Photo by Valaurian Waller)

He’s right, the housing market in Detroit is improving. Last year, the city had more homeowners than renters for the first time in a decade. Now, data shows that Black potential home buyers are prioritizing purchases in the city.  

Detroit Future City released two June reports – Black Homebuyer Demand and Home Sales in Detroit – that show Detroit’s housing market has stabilized. The city now leads the region in demand for mortgages from Black middle-class homebuyers. According to the reports, between 2012 to 2021 Black homebuyer demand increased by 188%. However, Black residents are still denied mortgages at a higher rate than white mortgage applicants.


Detroit’s housing market tanked in 2012, when mortgage applications were abysmal. In the years that followed, DFC reported that potential homebuyers wanted to live in safe neighborhoods with high quality amenities, high rates of homeownership and well-maintained homes. Cross-sector partnerships formed to create and support incentive programs and long-term investments to anchor downtown, Midtown and some city neighborhoods. To that effect, DFC says Detroit’s Black middle-class is starting to resurface.

“It’s the opportunity of equity, the opportunity of space, and the development of Detroit as well as the new conditions that they have for lending,” said Brittany Gardner, Bayi’s realtor at Powerhouse Closings Real Estate Group by EXP Realty.

Gardner said that Bayi’s 2,500-square-foot Tudor home in Rosedale Park would cost significantly more in other cities, including Detroit’s suburbs. The realtor said homebuyers in Detroit have an advantage of more “bang for their buck,” as seen with Bayi’s four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home that sold for $275,000 in 2021.

According to census data, Detroit’s median household income remains below $40,000 with 64% of the city’s population earning less than $50,000 annually. However, DFC reported that there was a significant increase in home purchase applications for residents earning under $50,000 from 2020 to 2021.


Bayi, who earns over $50,000 annually, was able to purchase a home on his own. However, Gardner said many Black residents are denied mortgages due to large debt-to-income ratios, and missed or late bill payments.

Areas that have maintained stability have received substantial investments: Woodbridge, Liv6, Grandmont Rosedale, Sherwood Forest, Palmer Woods, and The Villages.

“Some of the increased demand for living in Detroit could be reflective of strategic and targeted investments in neighborhoods across the city that have improved amenities, decreased vacancy and created a diversity of quality housing options,” Ashley Williams Clark, vice president of DFC, wrote in an email to BridgeDetroit. “And while the increases in Black homebuyer demand is promising, there is much work still to be done to attract and retain Black potential homebuyers through creating housing at a diversity of price points, increasing move-in ready housing and general housing quality, and increasing neighborhood amenities.”

There has been a major decrease in Detroit’s distressed housing sales. Census tracts within North Rosedale Park, West Village/Islandview and Castle Rouge and Rosedale Park neighborhoods saw the largest percent change in distressed sales between the two time periods. 

Market transactions are moving in a positive direction. From 2020 to 2021, more than half of Detroit’s property transactions were quit claim deeds and 40% were warranty deeds. While most of the city’s census tracts still have distressed sales, foreclosures make up less than 1% of the 2020-2021 market sales in Detroit. Chadsey Condon, Brightmoor and Midwest neighborhoods saw the largest percent change in increases to distressed sales.


The DFC reports share that some investments have reinforced the stability of certain neighborhoods. The Strategic Neighborhood Fund poured $169.4 million in public-private investment across 10 neighborhoods to prioritize the development of streetscapes, parks, commercial corridors and family stabilization. On the city’s northwest side, the Grandmont Rosedale Development Corporation and the Liv6 Alliance have stood as local partners between neighborhoods and civic leaders while focusing on economic development. 

GRDC’s new executive director, Mike Randall, said the organization remains dedicated to preserving and enhancing the five-neighborhood community. 

“Witnessing our stabilization since the Great Recession has been incredibly gratifying. The progress we’ve achieved since then reflects the dedication of our team and the resilience of our community,” Randall wrote in an email to BridgeDetroit. 

Live6, which is situated along the developing Livernois and 6 Mile/McNichols commercial corridor, was founded in 2015. The Community Development Financial Institution primarily works on commercial corridors and increasing small business opportunities. Live6 executive director Caitlin Murphy told BridgeDetroit that the CDFI doesn’t do housing development, however they encourage homebuyer education courses, alert neighbors of down payment assistance programs, and have supported city initiatives like the property tax exemption to lower housing burdens and keep Detroiters in their homes. 

Murphy said that over the years the CDFI has brought creative financing to areas that were under-resourced and previously considered “unbankable.” 

“While I think there’s still a lot of housing challenges that we need to solve for and figure out in our neighborhoods in northwest Detroit, I think we’re definitely seeing the signs of people interested in moving to the area,” Murphy said. 

Private businesses, local and state government, and philanthropic institutions supported the creation of the M-1 RAIL, otherwise known as the QLine. The over $230 million investment is supposed to be an accessible electric train that travels from downtown Detroit, through Midtown, to the North End and New Center neighborhoods. However, the streetcar is largely unavailable to most of Detroit’s neighborhoods. It has no connection to the edge of the city to connect to suburban transit and cuts off Detroiters who live in the city’s neighborhoods from vital jobs and resources in more populated areas. 

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Downtown Detroit has also benefited from the Downtown Detroit Partnership. DDP convenes civic partners to influence economic development and city planning. The partnership existed prior to the city’s economic downturn, and has supported major development projects.

Long-term Detroiters have questioned whether the millions invested will positively affect them or if cross-sector collaborations predominantly serve visitors and new Detroiters. The Downtown Detroit Partnership reported that 40% of Downtown’s population is Black, 42% white, 8.5% Asian, and less than 5% Hispanic or Latino. According to Census data, DDP’s data does not match the demographics of the City’s current residents.

Jamila Jackson, a longtime area realtor at Hawkins Realty Group, said that Detroit needs a Black middle-class to continue growth. Jackson grew up in Detroit and said that she remembers when the city had the greatest percentage of Black homeowners in the country. She believes that tax dollars from a stronger Black middle-class will support more vibrant neighborhoods, better schools, city services and experiences. As a realtor, Jackson is privy to programs like Michigan State Housing Development Authority’s lending programs that are available to residents. She told BridgeDetroit that she encourages Black residents to apply while the programs are still available.

“I think it’s important that we maintain that, and I think it’s important that we try to take advantage of the incentives being offered,” Jackson said. “We can’t let one person’s experience affect whether we are going to apply. If your friend doesn’t get a mortgage don’t let that affect whether you apply, every case is different.”

Jackson and Gardner’s client wish lists echoed each other. Jackson’s potential buyers want to live in neighborhoods where other homeowners are maintaining and improving their properties, and neighborhoods that have access to the amenities they need. She said younger homebuyers are more likely to look for updated homes, while older clients are willing to purchase properties that require sweat equity.

While the DFC reports show continued interest in Detroit’s northwest side, Jackson said Detroit’s Black middle-class should consider less dense areas that are in the redevelopment stages, like the North End and the Villages, for a chance at long-term equity. Jackson said there is hesitation to purchase older properties that need work by Detroiters who remember the lower cost of living just a few years prior. However, she says property values are only increasing and she doesn’t want long-term Detroiters to “miss out.”

“If you grew up in Detroit or spent a lot of time in Detroit, you’re tired,” she said. “You’re tired of seeing vacant lots and blighted buildings so you take your money elsewhere, but I think sometimes we don’t have the vision to wait out the development process.”

Having that foresight and patience can be trying. Some homeowners say that living in Detroit can be a frustrating commitment.  

man holding dog
Jelani Bayi said he wanted a home in a safe neighborhood where he felt comfortable walking his dog, Dior, and talking with neighbors. (Photo by Valaurian Waller)

Bayi wanted a spacious home in the city. His parents are aging and for him, it’s important to live near family. While in Southfield, he had quick access to retail, grocery and fast-casual dining. He also lived near a police station and his car insurance was cheaper.

When he purchased his home in Detroit, his car was stolen from his driveway. A few months after moving in he learned that he was behind on his water bill. According to the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, the seller of the home had paid for utilities up to a certain point and Bayi was required to take over the account once that period ended. Bayi said he was never notified when that time period ended. DWSD said switching the account holder on utilities is an “important step” in Detroit’s homebuying process that future buyers should know. 

“They could have just sent me a bill, so that’s frustrating,” Bayi said. “Paying taxes are astronomical, it’s frustrating… I don’t think those are (common) issues when you live in the suburbs.”

Even so, Bayi said living in Detroit is worth the cost and he’s home for good.

”I’m going to pour my money back into my city,” Bayi said. “And if that means that I have to deal with stuff daily, like paying for the taxes, then fine, I’ll do that with hopes of it getting better.” 

Olivia Lewis is a reporter for BridgeDetroit. She was formerly a reporter for the Battle Creek Enquirer and the Indianapolis Star. She has also worked in philanthropy for the Kresge Foundation, the Council...

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