The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Blaming the Wrong People for Detroit’s Decline

Apr 18, 2011

The Census found that Detroit lost 25% of its population since 2000. So what – or who – caused the mass exodus from the city?

The banks, first of all. They foreclosed viciously on residents’ homes. In 1996, Detroit had the lowest foreclosure rate of any metropolitan area in the country. By 2010, the city had the third highest number of foreclosures. The banks had pushed subprime loans in Detroit – regardless of people’s credit standing. These loans carry interest rates at least 3% above standard rates, leading most of the time to default. Eighty-seven% of black mortgage recipients in 2006 in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, were sold subprime loans. Detroit has gone from a city that once had one of the highest rates of home-ownership to one having the lowest ownership rate for single family homes of the 20 largest cities in the country.

The banks have foreclosed on so many homes it has forced people to double or quadruple up. Tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands are living in makeshift housing not counted by the census taker. That’s where people went. And they went to other cities, to the suburbs and down South, because the City of Detroit government and the School Board forced them out. The city closed so many neighborhood schools, who can even find a school for their kids to attend? Add to that the closure of city rec centers, neighborhood city halls, police mini-stations and health centers and it hardly makes the city an attractive place to live.

And now the city is threatening to close off whole neighborhoods if people refuse to move. The city will shut off street lighting, the water system, and garbage pickup.

They do that already! Whole areas of the city go a month at a time without street lighting. When a water pipe breaks, it can take months for the city to fix it. Already garbage pickup is missed every few weeks or so. People who wanted to live in the city they grew up in were driven out!

The politicians and the banks have destroyed a working class city in order to hand the land over to the developers, speculators and – through gentrification – to the wealthy.

Today, Detroit seems almost like a city in the Third World.