Whites get half of mortgages in Detroit, nation’s largest majority black city

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Mortgage lending has rebounded in Detroit, but whites now receive a majority of the loans. Each dot represents $100,000 in home loans in 2017. Loans to whites are in purple, while loans to blacks are green.

Home loans are heating up in Detroit after years of a frigid lending market, but a majority of loan dollars now go to whites, who comprise just over 10 percent of the population.

African-Americans, who still make up fourth-fifths of the city, are now far more likely to buy homes in the suburbs than Detroit.

The findings come from a Bridge Magazine analysis of hundreds of thousands of federal mortgage records from 2007 to 2017 that could suggest the region is upending a decades-long pattern of housing that has made southeast Michigan one of the nation’s most segregated regions.

Consider:

  • In 2007, when blacks made up 82 percent of the city’s population, they got 75 percent of all Detroit home loans and 75 percent of all loan dollars. By 2017, blacks received 48 percent of all home-purchase loans –  and just 34 percent of loan dollars despite still being 79 percent of the population.
  • In 2017, just 14 percent of black home loan applications in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw counties were for homes in Detroit, down from 52 percent in 2007.
  • Whites received 44 percent of the 940 mortgages in Detroit in 2017, and 58 percent ($72.9 million) of the total loans, up from 17 percent of the loans and dollars in 2007.
  • Several predominantly black neighborhoods of Detroit, which combined had more than 600 mortgages in 2007, had none in 2017.

Those are several of the findings from an analysis of home mortgage records compiled by the federal government to ensure banks comply with fair-housing laws. The most recent data held by the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is from 2017.

To be sure, mortgages don’t represent all sales in a city where roughly three-quarters of home purchases are with cash because of depressed property values.  Nor do the mortgages accurately portend population changes, as a majority of city residents are now renters.

But the numbers still shock Dorian Harvey, former president of the Detroit Association of Realtors. Bridge Magazine showed him a time-lapse video mapping mortgages by race, in which huge areas of the city had, by 2017, few to no signs of mortgage activity.

 

“I knew this was happening but to see the visual?” he said. “I don’t see any good news there, bro.”

“It looks like (blacks have) given up (on Detroit),” said Harvey, who himself left the city in 2014 and moved to Farmington.

Imbalanced market

Harvey is not alone. More blacks bought homes in Southfield (2,293) between 2011 and 2017 than in Detroit (1,709) and nearly as many in Redford Township (1,588).

Warren (1,103), Farmington Hills (868) and Eastpointe (820) were other top destinations.

Those sales come just a few years after the mortgage market collapsed in the country, but more specifically in Detroit. There were 3,700 mortgages in 2007 and 1,305 in 2008 in Detroit. Many were high-interest subprime mortgages that foreclosed, gutting much of the city’s housing stock and leading to Mayor Mike Duggan’s multi-million-dollar demolition blitz.

The recovery has been slow. In 2012, lenders doled out just 195 Detroit mortgages to people of all races compared to 300 for blacks alone in Southfield that year.

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