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Thread: Employers paying people to live in Detroit

  1. #1
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Employers paying people to live in Detroit

    Several Months back the Detroit Medical Center, Henry Ford Hospital, and Wayne State Univesity announced a plan that they would subsidize employees to move into the neighborhoods they work in.

    This week the major utility provider, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Quicken, Compuware, and another firm have announced a similar program.

    Has this been tried in other cities? Does it work? How can I get my employer to get in on this action?
    Last edited by DetroitPlanner; 24 Jul 2011 at 1:20 PM. Reason: typo
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    It sounds like a "good idea" in theory but there are so many variables that affect where people choose to live that I have my doubts that it will work in cities like Detroit or Buffalo. First off, if housing costs themselves were a real issue, people would be flocking into either of these two cities, but home prices/rents in fairly close, fairly easy commute first and second ring suburbs aren't so bad in either metro. Meanwhile, safety and poor schools discourage would be newcomers. In Buffalo, at least, the dysfunctionality of the city government makes living in the city even more discouraging than anything else.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    I know Tacoma was trying it out - focussed on the getting residents into the downtown, so it was pretty specific.
    I too would be interested to see if this works - if schools are an issue, I assume it may be more targeted to professionals without children?

  4. #4
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    As far as I can tell these are targeted areas either in or close to the CBD.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    I have a few friends who live in Midtown and work at Henry Ford and WSU and can say that when the program was first announced, it was being pushed heavily at the younger and childless employees. In a place like Detroit, that has to be key since I cannot fathom that many parents of school-aged children will willingly move from the 'burbs to the city. Hopefully, some of these younger professionals will move to these neighborhoods and decide to put down roots there. I've seen some reports from the folks at the Midtown organization that are administering the program and I guess they've already received quite a few applications for the subsidies and will likely hit their max soon.

    I like that the first announcement is aimed at bringing folks to the Midtown area and the new announcement is aimed at bringing folks to downtown. I think trying to concentrate the new residents in particular areas and create a critical mass in these places is likely to be a better long-term strategy than giving the subsidies to employees who move anywhere in the city.

    All in all, I think it's a really interesting program. It seems sort of like private businesses stepping up and taking over the roll of the municipal employers who used to be able to demand that their employees live in their community. I'm hoping that this is a program that has some staying power.
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  6. #6
    I would think families with children don't move all that often anyways. Who really wants to have their kids have to change schools?

    I have heard of a number of cities that provided subsidies for their employees to buy homes within their city limits. Sometimes these were initiated because housing prices were so high.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian WSU MUP Student's avatar
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    Another article/editorial about the project in Detroit: http://detnews.com/article/20110726/OPINION03/107260328
    "Where free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost." - 1980 Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan

  8. #8
    Cyburbian fareastsider's avatar
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    My opinion falls in the middle on this subject. While getting people into the city is dire for Detroit it resembles lipstick on a pig to me. Detroit city services are very inefficient, underfunded and corrupt. In addition I feel many people moving in may be unprepared for living or adjusting to living in the city. There are major income gaps and people that may not be able to adequately size up a situation or be in the wrong place at the wrong time. In short someone who is not familiar with the city may not have the street smarts and could get into some trouble. A big problem especially the police may not show for some time.

    While downtown and midtown are quite safe they still are in the center of a largely lawless and poor city. This an effort to create a stable nucleus with some serious backers and I wish all parties the best of luck.

    In addition though I feel there are two larger problems, first being the lawlessness and lack of every government service with the exception of DFD and a few other departments. Secondly I view Detroit in 3 rings. Within the boulevard which is the oldest part. The early twentieth century ring bounded by Livernois, 6 Mile to Conner approx and then the outer part to the city limits which grew from 1930s to the 50s. The inner ring is very empty outside of downtown which presents some great redevelopment opportunities though red tape and corruption are just the beginning of the difficulty or redevelopment there. The outer 2 rings have gone through massive population loss since 2000, not to mention since the 60s. The city was quite empty before the current housing crisis but today it is shocking.

    The emptiness I have seen since 2007 startles me whenever I am back in town. I can think of many areas that were stable ten years ago which are in complete ruin now. There is no sign that this is slowing either. I often stress that people can not understand until they have been there especially day in and day out.
    The situation Detroit faces is much larger than company incentives, farming and charter schools can fix. I feel its a crisis unparalleled per scale in the US. Though there seems to be a strong steam in these and other activities in the city despite the growing problems.

    In conclusion this discussion is far greater than can be expressed in this forum. I cant say that I will be to excited about Detroit's turnaround until there is a small but sizable growth in population without the tax and other incentives. I don't know what it will take to bring people back in large numbers but I don't see that occurring on the horizon with what is going on currently.

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    A number of colleges and universities have tried this approach to get workers closer to the students.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    This is pretty interesting because the University of Pennsylvania and neighboring Drexel U. did/do the same thing. When I bought my house about 6 years ago I was also looking at houses in the neighborhoods around the two schools. They were at the upper end of my price range ($250k) but ultimately I decided that the houses were just too big and needed too much work. Not wanting to buy a money pit I settled on something a little more manageable in a different part of the city.

    A few months later UPenn announced the opening of the Penn-Alexander School. A university backed public school with a catchment area slightly smaller than the boundaries of the University City district.

    Today, the houses that I was looking at 6 years ago now go for $450-$700k. In the meantime home prices in my neighborhood (without the great school) have gone up 5 maybe 10%.

    It's not so much about getting families to move to the city from the 'burbs as it is about getting those 20-somethings to stay once their kids are old enough for school.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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    Cyburbian Linda_D's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jresta View post
    This is pretty interesting because the University of Pennsylvania and neighboring Drexel U. did/do the same thing. When I bought my house about 6 years ago I was also looking at houses in the neighborhoods around the two schools. They were at the upper end of my price range ($250k) but ultimately I decided that the houses were just too big and needed too much work. Not wanting to buy a money pit I settled on something a little more manageable in a different part of the city.

    A few months later UPenn announced the opening of the Penn-Alexander School. A university backed public school with a catchment area slightly smaller than the boundaries of the University City district.

    Today, the houses that I was looking at 6 years ago now go for $450-$700k. In the meantime home prices in my neighborhood (without the great school) have gone up 5 maybe 10%.

    It's not so much about getting families to move to the city from the 'burbs as it is about getting those 20-somethings to stay once their kids are old enough for school.
    BINGO! This is the big kicker pushing young families out of cities. The only other thing that even comes close to schools is safety.

    Once families settle in the suburbs and live there for a couple of decades raising their kids, the chances of them moving back into the city as empty nesters is fairly small, especially since, in many areas, their jobs are in the suburbs or on the peripheries of the city.

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    Downtown Devlopment

    The downtown area in the City of Pontiac has started the 'Rise of the Phoenix' program by offering one year free rent to businesses that sign a multi year lease. this program has brought in 52 new businesses in the downtowbn which had virtually no new business in years. This incentive did not cost the City a penny and was initiated by the downtown business association. The City offered to allow free parking early on but reneged on it later. Inspite of teh odds early signs are that teh program has been a success. A little bit of creative thinking and a united front go a long way in revitalizing the downtown area.

  13. #13
    Cyburbian jresta's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Linda_D View post
    BINGO! This is the big kicker pushing young families out of cities. The only other thing that even comes close to schools is safety.

    Once families settle in the suburbs and live there for a couple of decades raising their kids, the chances of them moving back into the city as empty nesters is fairly small, especially since, in many areas, their jobs are in the suburbs or on the peripheries of the city.
    I don't know how things are in other cities but Philadelphia, despite having a generally terrible public school system, has some really great schools. Girls, Central and Masterman rank among the top 20 high schools in Pennsylvania. Masterman actually ranks top 20 nationally.

    Most people I know who move from this part of the city go to other parts of the city for a bigger house and/or to be in one of the catchment areas for one of the better schools. I even know people who moved across town just to be closer to the charter school their kids go to.

    I do know a few people who moved to the suburbs "for the kids" but they were moving back to the 'burbs regardless. They had been talking it about it well before they had kids and often before they were married. They just moved to the city to party and to eventually find someone to settle down with. Once they had that they had no use for the city anymore. A few them regret the move for themselves but insist that "it's best for the kids."

    People in the 'burbs with school aged kids (who have never lived in the city) aren't going to move the city no matter how good the schools are. They're just a different kind of person and a different kind of parent.

    Empty-nesters, on the other hand, live in Center City and surrounding neighborhoods in big numbers. Often it involves selling the big, suburban home and buying a small condo in the city and a vacation home somewhere else. I think this is actually quite common in larger cities but I've also noticed it in much smaller cities like Charleston, Chattanooga, Asheville, etc.
    Indeed you can usually tell when the concepts of democracy and citizenship are weakening. There is an increase in the role of charity and in the worship of volunteerism. These represent the élite citizen's imitation of noblesse oblige; that is, of pretending to be aristocrats or oligarchs, as opposed to being citizens.

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