Detroit Mortgage Records Confirm a Dramatic Racial Switch over 10 Years

June 14, 2019, 6:11 AM

Detailed analysis of federal mortgage records spanning a decade show a mix of welcome change and distressing signs locally.

Bridge Magazine's database reporting specialist, Mike Wilkinson, distills findings from 2007-17 home loan records held by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Within the numbers are hints of both good trends, like expanded opportunities for blacks in a once-restrictive suburban housing market, and bad ones: the decline in black homeowners and black middle class in Detroit.

And despite an uptick in mortgages in Detroit –  it's risen every year since 2012 – the number of home loans in 2017 was a quarter of the 3,700 issued in 2007. . . Traditional lending, which has fully recovered in the suburbs, has not returned to all Detroit neighborhoods.


Whites got 44% of Detroit's 940 mortgages two years ago and 58% of home loan money from banks. (Photo: DepositPhotos)

A stark racial change is documented:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Several predominantly black neighborhoods of Detroit, which combined had more than 600 mortgages in 2007, had none in 2017.

"A majority of [Detroit] loan dollars now go to whites, who comprise just over 10 percent of the population," Bridge's in-depth study reports. "African-Americans, who still make up fourth-fifths of the city, are now far more likely to buy homes in the suburbs than Detroit."

Federal records of bank mortgages don't reflect cash sales or land contract deals, Wilkinson notes, adding that "roughly three-quarters of [Detroit] 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.

Dorian Harvey: "I don't see any good news there, bro." (Photo: Facebook)

The reporter speaks with 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.

Harvey left the city in 2014 and moved to Farmington, says the magazine, which adds this broader context:

More blacks bought homes in Southfield (2,293) between 2011 and 2017 than in Detroit (1,709).

Redford Township (1,588), Warren (1,103), Farmington Hills (868) and Eastpointe (820) were other top destinations.

Wilkinson also quotes a former City of Detroit economist, a lifelong resident who left in 2006 and now owns a Canton Township condo with her husband, and a real estate agent who lives in the west-side University District.

Read more:  Bridge Magazine

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