Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > Detroit Regional Chamber’s 10th Annual State of the Region Confirms Longstanding Insights of Black Community

Detroit Regional Chamber’s 10th Annual State of the Region Confirms Longstanding Insights of Black Community

March 4, 2024

Michigan Chronicle
Feb. 29, 2024
Ebony JJ Curry

The 10th annual State of the Region conference, held at One Campus Martius, brought together Detroit’s business and civic leaders for a comprehensive analysis of the region’s economic health. The Detroit Regional Chamber’s latest report revealed a mixed bag of progress and enduring challenges, with a special focus on the not so surprising racial disparities that continue to shape the city’s landscape.

The report highlights a significant achievement for Southeast Michigan: unemployment rates have stabilized at or below 4% for nearly two years, signaling a robust economic recovery to pre-pandemic levels. This figure, according to economists, falls within the ideal range of 3% to 5%, indicative of a healthy economy. Despite this, the narrative of economic decline persists, overshadowing the strides made in the region’s recovery.

“The number of job openings available across the state, to the number of unemployed people across the state, we’re exactly where we were right before the pandemic. In other words, there are 1.5 jobs available right now for every unemployed person in the state of Michigan,” said Sandy K. Baruah, President and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber.

Lately, various reports have been shining a light on key topics such as artificial intelligence (AI), electric vehicles (EVs), tech, demographic trends, job market fluctuations, and the persistent gaps in wealth across racial lines. These issues are not new but continue to draw attention for their impact on society. Among these, it’s clear that the Black community faces unique hurdles, pointing to a need for more inclusive strategies to address these systemic challenges.

However, the conference shed light on a more troubling aspect of Detroit’s economic landscape – the significant gap in homeownership rates between white and Black Detroiters is a clear indicator of deep-seated disparities within the city’s housing market. While 80% of white residents enjoy the benefits of homeownership, including the potential for wealth building and community stability, only 42% of Black residents can say the same. This gap is not just a snapshot of today’s economic landscape but a continuation of long-standing challenges rooted in historical practices such as redlining and discriminatory lending, which have systematically limited access to housing for Black communities.

The disparity is further highlighted by the differences in mortgage rejection rates, with Black applicants facing rejections at twice the rate of their white counterparts (22% vs. 11%). This stark difference points to underlying biases and systemic issues within the financial system that go beyond simple financial metrics. Such high rejection rates not only hinder Black residents’ ability to own homes but also contribute to broader cycles of economic disadvantage, as homeownership is a crucial step towards financial security and wealth accumulation.

These figures are not merely statistics; they reflect a deep-seated issue that has plagued Detroit for decades, if not centuries. The disparity in homeownership and mortgage approval rates underscores a systemic problem that extends beyond economic indicators, revealing a persistent racial divide that economic recovery alone cannot bridge.

“Let’s think of things as economic issues and not political issues. And if we think about as economic issues, will we choose to rise to the challenge of next-generation mobility or not? Because if we won’t do it, who will?” Baruah said.

As Detroit marks the 10th anniversary of this significant annual event, the findings prompt a reflection on the progress made and the long road ahead in addressing racial inequalities. The economic revival of Southeast Michigan, while commendable, masks the underlying issues that continue to affect Black Detroiters.

How can Black Detroiters advance in the face of persisting disparities, as highlighted by the latest State of the Region report? The entrenched gaps in homeownership and mortgage approval rates between Black and white residents call for a multifaceted strategy to dismantle the systemic barriers that have long hindered economic equity. This involves not just acknowledging the issues but actively rethinking lending practices to ensure fairness, implementing targeted policy changes to address the root causes of these disparities, and fostering community initiatives that empower Black residents. By collectively addressing these challenges, what measures can be put in place to ensure a more equitable housing market, and what role can local businesses, policymakers, and community leaders play in paving the way for a more inclusive and prosperous Detroit in future reports?

The State of the Region report serves as a crucial reminder that economic recovery and growth must be inclusive to truly transform the region. As Detroit moves forward, tackling these disparities head-on will be paramount in shaping a more equitable and prosperous future for all its residents.