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Subsidies for gentrification

Quicken Loans logoDTE LOGOI was disappointed in the panel’s response, specifically Phil Cooley’s, to a question at the Two Detroits? Gentrification. forum: “How does subsidized housing effect gentrification? Not subsidized housing for poor folk to create mixed income neighborhoods, but subsidization for upscale corporate folks like Quicken Loans employees (add DTE, Blue Cross, Compuware, and so on) in the Cass Corridor and Corktown.”

Full disclosure, the question was my own, put because our church has a two-flat house in Corktown, which Quicken Loans employees have been eagerly applying to rent since they could be provided $2500 support if they can properly land the lease. We think of that as a subsidy and have made a policy not to participate.

Such supports alter the market, as they say, raising rents and values, competing with and forcing out current residents. Though he went on to praise the work of the non-profits and corporations, Phil replied as a Corktown resident that no such subsidies were being received from corporations or foundations. I’m sure he misspoke.

Any local real estate agent in the neighborhood would know that buyers who work for these corporations could receive $20,000 forgiveable loans to purchase homes in these and other select neighborhoods, including downtown. I think of this as a corporate subsidy. The $3.8 million dollars earmarked for Tiger stadium restoration and development is now in the control of the Conservancy and the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation. Though substantially for the site, grants have been parceled out along Michigan Avenue to businesses and bars.

Like one of the distilleries, I believe the new Bagel operation, however good these folks might be, got $50K to rehab their building for startup. That is a subsidy too. Something which new start-ups at Hubbell and Fenkell don’t get. Never mind subsidies like small business tax abatements or brownfield tax credits or properties bought for $1.

Cultural creatives pulling themselves up by their imaginative bootstraps, are privileged with structural help they don’t acknowledge or perhaps even recognize.

At the forum, I don’t recall hearing mention of the Detroit Future City development vision. This 300-page, privately funded study, which the Duggan administration has declared its “bible,” identifies which neighborhoods will receive resources and infrastructure and which will have the plug pulled on them. It never mentions race or class in terms of history or future.

It’s not a “plan,” but its maps clearly suggest where people will be moved from and where they are to be concentrated (where rents and land values will necessarily rise). Emergency management speeds the process as the Ilich hockey rink deal shows. There are designs for the Two Detroits, and they’re not just mystified logics of the market’s invisible hand.

— Bill Wylie-Kellermann, pastor, St Peter’s Episcopal

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