user Bernt Rostad / Flickr

Three Detroit businesses earlier this year began to offer up to $25,000 to encourage their employees to buy a place to live in Midtown Detroit. But the "Live Midtown" incentives have created a new kind of housing crisis in the city: a housing shortage. 

Austin Black is a realtor with City Living Detroit in midtown. He says in 2007 - 2008, the area was flush with unsold units. But he says now many of his clients have become frustrated looking for housing in the area.

S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices

Data released today by the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices show that through June, home prices nationally were back to their early 2003 levels.

But home prices in Detroit were at pre-2000 levels. The Detroit market was down 6.6 percent when compared to the previous year.

That put's Detroit in a bad category along with some "sunbelt" cities, according to S&P/Case-Shiller:

At the other extreme, those which set new lows in 2011 include the four Sunbelt cities – Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix and Tampa – as well as the weakest of all, Detroit. These shifts suggest that we are back to regional housing markets, rather than a national housing market where everything rose and fell together.

The Detroit Free Press quoted a statement from Patrick Newport, a U.S. economist with IHS Global Insight:

"Detroit, where prices have dropped nearly 50% since peaking in late 2005, remains, by far, the weakest market,” he said. “Detroit avoided a big run-up in housing prices during the boom years, but was hit hard by the recession."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Michigan home prices are still sliding thanks to banks selling foreclosed homes and short-selling others. Realty Trac reports 40 percent of all home sales in Michigan between April and June involved banks either selling foreclosed homes or short-selling other homes that were on the verge of being repossessed. That percentage is up slightly from the beginning of the year and the same time last year. 

Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac. He says the banks sold the homes at about a 40 percent discount. 

“We’re seeing the prices come lower and the discounts go higher, which is good news for buyers.  And it does indicate that the lenders maybe more willing to take a bigger loss on these properties in order to get them sold.”

Bloomquist expects repossessed homes will continue to be a drag on Michigan’s housing market for the next few years.

Ray Gauss II / flickr

Changing Gears is kicking off a new feature. Inspired by Smith Magazine, and possibly Ernest Hemingway, we're asking people to share stories of what the economic transformation of the industrial Midwest means to them. But there's a catch. We want these stories in six words.

Listen to the result of our request for stories about the housing crisis. Take Mary Mary Beth Matthew's submission for example, "2007 bought ex's half, 2011 underwater." Set to music, it's creative, poignant, and even funny.

You can also contribute to our current six word story-your "Plan B."

Six-word poets: Marcus Bales, Amanda Thomas, Becky McRae, Matt Lechel, Christopher Lada, Manuel Magana, and LaGaspa McDougal.

Music by Steve Osburn, produced by Cade Sperling.

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Foreclosure activity dropped by more than a third this past year, according to the group RealtyTrac. But despite the national slowdown, regional companies that take care of foreclosed homes are still thriving. Their job is to keep empty houses clean and safe from the forces that depress local property values: squatters, thieves and decay.

Dawn Hammontree probably never expected to see their work firsthand.

The first part of Hammontree’s story is familiar in Michigan. Her unemployment ran out in December.

user dig downtown detroit / Flickr

DETROIT (AP) - A group of young Jewish professionals attracted to the vitality of Detroit's evolving downtown wants to bring others into the city decades after their parents and grandparents left.

CommunityNEXT Director Jordan Wolfe says the 25 people targeted through a rent program would help return Jewish culture to Detroit and contribute to the city's revitalization.

Subsidies of $250 per month for a year will be offered. Wolfe says he is seeking to bring in people "who get a kick out of building a community."

The rent program piggybacks offers major corporations and businesses are making to entice their employees to relocate downtown or to Detroit's growing Midtown area.

A dodgeball tournament fundraiser is scheduled for Saturday in Detroit and will be followed Sunday by a kickball tournament in Los Angeles.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

There’s a David-and-Goliath story about to play out in federal court in Detroit.

Oakland County Treasurer Andrew Meisner says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are illegally dodging millions of dollars in taxes. The government-backed mortgage giants were created by the federal government, but they were spun off decades ago as hybrid enterprises with a policy mission and a profit motive. 

Just where Fannie and Freddie sit on the public-private spectrum is the central issue of the court case. And the court fight could be a bellwether for similar battles in other states. 

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures tumbled in Michigan during the first half of the year. One analyst says that’s bad news.  

Realty Trac reports that home foreclosure filings dropped by about 20 percent during the first six months of 2011. One in 74 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure notice between January and June. 

Rick Sharga is with Realty Trac. He says continuing questions about problems with foreclosure paperwork has slowed down the number of properties being repossessed by banks. Federal and state regulators are expected to announce a deal soon clearing major lenders from intentional wrongdoing involving faulty paperwork that mistakenly evicted people current on their mortgages. 

Sharga says the delay in foreclosure filings has slowed the recovery in Michigan’s real estate market. 

 “What over 60% of buyers are looking for right now are bank owned properties or foreclosure properties.   So it might be a little of a ‘Catch-22’ here…where we need a higher inventory of these distressed properties to get the buyers off the sidelines.”  

Sharga says it may take until 2015 to clear the huge backlog of homes in the foreclosure process which will continue to be a drag on the home sale market.

Every year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture releases its estimate of how much it costs to raise a child from birth to seventeen years of age.

Here's what they found for their latest Expenditures on Children by Families report:

A middle-income family with a child born in 2010 can expect to spend about $226,920 ($286,860 if projected inflation costs are factored in) for food, shelter, and other necessities to raise that child over the next 17 years.

It represents a 2% increase from 2009, and the report also notes that, naturally, the more money you make, the more you spend on your child:

  • A family earning less than $57,600 per year can expect to spend a total of $163,440 (in 2010 dollars) on a child from birth through high school.
  • Similarly, parents with an income between $57,600 and $99,730 can expect to spend $226,920;
  • and a family earning more than $99,730 can expect to spend $377,040.

Housing accounts for 31% of the cost for raising a child for a family with a middle income.

The USDA first released this report in 1960 when a middle-income family could have expected to spend $25,230 to raise a child (or $185,856 in 2010 dollars).

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

There's positive news about the nation's home prices, but that's not  the case in Detroit.  Data released by Clear Capital today suggests home sale prices nationally may be stabilizing.  Home prices lost ground through the winter months, and the latest data shows prices dropped by 2.3% in May.  

But the good news is prices being paid for repossessed homes nationally actually increased last month.   Foreclosed homes have been dragging down home sale prices, but that might be changing. 

Foreclosed homes continued to drag down Michigan home sale prices in the first quarter of the year.  Realty Trac reports nearly 32% of  homes sold in Michigan in the first three months of 2011 were repossessed homes.   

The average price for a foreclosed home was just a little more than $70 thousand.   The price is about a third less than similar homes on the market.  

 A Michigan family needs two people working full-time at minimum wage in order to afford a modest home. That’s according to a report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition. The report says, the cost of housing has risen 27% in Michigan over 11 years, but wages have not increased.

Danilo Pelletiere is with the housing coalition. He says the gap between housing prices and wages has become a problem in the state.

House Foreclosure
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan mortgage lenders are taking longer to foreclose on delinquent homeowners.  In 2007, the entire foreclosure process in Michigan took on average 78 days to complete.   This year, the average foreclosure is taking 235 days to complete.  The reason is a mixture of the economy and paperwork. 

According to Realty Trac, this is not just a Michigan issue:

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

The number of vacancies in Michigan rose by nearly 50% over the past decade.

According to the latest U.S. Census data, the number of vacant housing units across the state jumped from about 448,618 in 2000 to 659,725 in 2010.

A major home mortgage lender has reached a deal to end a federal investigation into alleged racial discrimination. The settlement will mean millions of dollars for housing programs in Wayne County.  

Citizens Bank is the largest bank holding company headquartered in Michigan and one of the 50 largest in the country. 

Photo courtesy of the Murphys

In 1950, more than half of Americans owned their homes free and clear. No surprise that number has shrunk over the years.  But those who count themselves mortgage-free are still out there. The 2010 U.S. Census shows 1 out of every 3 homeowners owns their home free and clear. In a story produced for Marketplace Money, we look at what it takes to become mortgage-free.

Meet the Murphys

Mike and Kate Murphy live in a working-class neighborhood of Chicago, with two of their kids, Becky and Tommy, and their pet fish. They bought their charming, 3-bedroom brick house in 1996 for $156,000.

They originally started with a $110,000 mortgage. Mike Murphy says it was " obviously the largest mortgage we had ever taken out."

At the time, Kate brought in $30,000 a year, designing theater costumes part time. Mike was making $50,000 as a public school teacher:

At first they paid $1,100 a month on the mortgage. Refinancing dropped the payment to just under a $1,000. But they decided to pay a little more each month -- first $100, then $150 more.

Fast forward 13 years and they owned their house free and clear.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The number of home foreclosures in Michigan inched higher last month. One in every 311 homes in Michigan received a foreclosure noticed in March. The number of foreclosures was up about 4 percent from February.

Michigan had the nation’s fifth highest home foreclosure rate in March, behind Nevada, Arizona, California and Utah.     

Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says mortgage holders are starting to send more initial foreclosure notices and repossess more homes in Michigan. Bloomquist says an improving economy is the only way to reduce future foreclosure notices in Michigan. 

 “The more the economy improves and jobs improve during the next couple months the less we’ll see that huge spike in foreclosure numbers down the road.”  

While March’s foreclosure numbers rose slightly, overall Michigan’s home foreclosure numbers declined during the first three months of the year.

More than 15 hundred people will meet in Lansing this week to discuss Michigan’s affordable housing needs. 

Jess Sobol is the director of operations in the Community Development division within the Michigan Housing Development Authority.  He says this week’s conference will give people from the non-profit and for-profit worlds a chance to meet and discuss ways of reclaiming ‘sustainable’ communities. 

Kate Davidson / Changing Gears

Property values have plummeted across the region.

That means cities and towns have watched their tax revenue plunge as well. But many homeowners and businesses think their property taxes are still too high.

The result is a double hit.

Local governments are in fiscal crisis, and the tax courts of Michigan, Ohio and Illinois are clogged with people who want refunds.

People like Donald Betlem.

Detroit posted the biggest percentage drop in home prices in the nation, according to a new report. Clear Capitol says home prices in Michigan’s largest home market slide 13% in February, more than any other major city.

Alex Villacorta  is Clear Capitol’s director of research.   He says home prices in Detroit are being dragged down by banks trying to sell foreclosed homes.    Bank owned homes usually sell at well below market prices.

Fewer homebuyers were interested in buying a previously foreclosed home in Michigan last year. The result is an increasingly high number of bank-owned homes just sitting on the real estate market.  

Just under 41 thousand formerly foreclosed homes sold last year in Michigan.  That’s down by a third compared to 2009 and 2008.  The prices paid for those homes also dropped.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Analysts expected a big jump in home foreclosures in Michigan in January.  But the jump didn’t materialize.

 Home foreclosures slowed last fall in Michigan and around the country as banks dealt with a scandal about robo-signings.   Essentially mortgage lenders signing foreclosure documents without checking to make sure what they were signing was accurate or truthful.  Foreclosures were expected to spike this month.  But they didn’t.  Realty Trac reports Michigan saw only a 4% increase in foreclosure filings in January.   Nationally only a one  percent increase.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

2010 was the worst year in a decade for home foreclosures in Michigan, according to new data out today.   And 2011 is expected to be worse.  

One in 33.    That’s how many Michigan homes received a foreclosure notice in 2010.   

 Realty Trac ranks Michigan as having the 7th worst home foreclosure rate in the nation last year. Daren Bloomquist is with Realty Trac.    He says Michigan’s foreclosure numbers should be worse this year. 

Michigan home prices continue their downward slide and the trend shows little sign of stopping.

Home prices in Michigan declined about 9% in the third quarter, a downward trend that started in April as government buying incentives began to dry up.

Fewer people bought formerly foreclosed homes in Michigan in the third quarter of the year. 

Federal home buyer tax credits spurred home sales in Michigan and the rest of the country during the first half of the year.  Daren Bloomquist with Realty Trac says July through September home sales slumped without those incentives.  He says Michigan’s foreclosed home sales dipped 26%.

Bloomquist says:

Some of the sales you would have seen in the third quarter were pushed forward to the second quarter.  So, there was a little artificial inflation in those numbers. These numbers in the third quarter are a little bit lower than normal.

People who bought one of the 95 hundred formerly foreclosed homes that sold in Michigan in the third quarter of the year got a good deal.  The average sale price was about 41% cheaper than similar homes sold at the same time.

Abandoned house in Flint, MI
Flickr user jamesharv2005 / Creative Commons

More houses are coming down in Flint. Kristin Longley reports in the Flint Journal that 174 houses will come down by December 31st. That's on top of the 125 houses city crews are expected to take down by the end of the year.

Flint union leader Sam Muma says city crews can't take down all the homes scheduled for demolition:

"There's no way the crews I represent, the city employees, can handle all that. We have a situation quite unique in our time."

Building a knee wall in an attic
Rebecca Williams / Michigan Radio's The Environment Report

Habitat for Humanity says it's saving money by fixing up foreclosure in Michigan, rather than building new. The Environment Report's Rebecca Williams visited volunteers working on rehabbing a house in Ypsilanti Township. Megan Rogers with Habitat says rehabbing foreclosures costs about 1/3 less than building new, but it can be a bit more challenging: