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In Detroit's new population numbers, a mix of good and bad news

Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.
flickr user Bernt Rostad
Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.

Detroit’s population has fallen to a level not seen since before 1920.

But there are signs that long-term trend has bottomed out.

According to the US Census Bureau’s latest estimate, Detroit’s population stood at just over 677,116 people last summer.

That means it’s no longer one of the 20 largest cities in the country.

But there is something of a silver lining. The city’s population drain has slowed significantly—and many think it’s on the brink of reversing.

Kurt Metzger, founder of the group Data Driven Detroit, is so confident of that he’s willing to make a prediction about the 2016 numbers.

“You will see for the first time in 66 years, that Detroit will actually gain population,” Metzger said.

Metzger says there are numerous signs that some neighborhoods, especially in and around the city’s core, are growing and attracting new residents.

And Metzger says there’s another population-stabilizing dynamic in play--Detroit still has a large, poor base population that’s increasingly “stuck in place.”

“They can’t leave Detroit. They can’t find housing in the near-in suburbs that they can afford, and the rental market has stabilized,” Metzger said.

But don’t expect Detroit to reclaim its former big-city status anytime soon.

In fact, Metzger says these latest census numbers show the real growth is now in the Grand Rapids area.

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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