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U-M survey: More Detroiters than previously thought live in substandard housing

More Detroiters than previously estimated are living in homes with serious home repair issues, according to a new University of Michigan surveyof nearly 1,900 Detroiters.

The Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS) is a regular survey. The home repair survey data is from July of this year. The researchers defined inadequate housing as homes with major electrical problems, broken furnaces, or a lack of hot or running water, but also asked about a variety of other home repair issues.

Lydia Wileden is a U of M research associate involved in the survey. She said the researchers estimate that around 13% of all Detroiters—some 38,000 households—live in dangerously poor conditions.

“Unsurprisingly, the rate of residents living in inadequate or poor-quality housing is higher than the rate in the broader metro area,” Wileden said.

The survey revealed that roughly equal percentages of renters and homeowners—12% versus 14%--are living in dangerously inadequate housing conditions. And Wileden said it’s not only affecting the poorest Detroiters. “It’s not only low-income Detroiters, but what we would consider moderate-income Detroiters--those who make up to $60,000 a year--who are equally likely to live in inadequate quality housing, and struggle to find ways to pay for home repairs,” she said.

Wileden said the survey also found that Detroit renters who live in inadequate housing have the most trouble getting their landlords to make needed repairs. “We find that renters who live in these substandard conditions are much more likely to get no response from their landlord when they make requests for home repair,” she said.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan recently launched a program, Renew Detroit, that uses federal stimulus money to help Detroiters with home repairs. But the program is only available to seniors, or people with disabilities. It aims to upgrade 1,000 roofs in its first phase, but nearly 5,000 people have already applied.

Wileden said Renew Detroit is a good first step, but isn’t nearly enough to fill the need that exists. “The population that's vulnerable to living in inadequate quality housing goes beyond those groups that are targeted by the Renew Detroit program,” including about 18% of households with children, Wileden said. “The scale of the Renew Detroit program has clearly been shown to be exceeded by demand for home repairs.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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