White people are moving back to, of all cities, Detroit. The city that became synonymous with "white flight" is now the new hot urban center for white Millennials and Gen Xers, while black families are moving out to the suburbs.
Simple math convinced music producer Mike Seger to move from adjacent Oakland County into a rented two-story house on Detroit's east side that also houses his Get Fresh Studio. Seger, 27, pays $750 per month in rent, and said he wouldn't have been able to find anything comparable in the suburbs for that price. The average monthly rental rate of a three-bedroom single-family home in Detroit is about $800, as opposed to $1,100 to $1,400 in the suburbs, according to RentRange.com, which collects rental market information.
"A young person can move here with $10,000 and start up a small flex space for artists or artists' studios," Seger said. "It's the uprising of the youth being able to have the opportunities to make a future for themselves."
Eugene Gualtieri, a 41-year-old lab technician at the Detroit Medical Center, took advantage of an incentive program. Live Midtown, offered by his employer and several others in the Midtown neighborhood, allowed him to take out a $20,000 home loan that he won't have to repay if he stays in his condo for five years. The program is aimed at getting workers to live closer to their jobs, which can benefit employers and employees.
"The condo is eight minutes from work ... super close, nice neighborhood and really reasonably priced," Gualtieri said. "Like any part of any city, I'm sure there are good parts and bad parts. You just make sure you don't end up in the areas you are not supposed to be in."
Live Downtown is a similar incentive program offered by employers located in downtown Detroit, which is home to General Motors, Quicken Loans and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Three professional sports teams and stadiums, three casinos, restaurants and bars are entertainment anchors.
That's one side of Detroit. But for the people already living in mostly black neighborhoods, the talk of incentives and urban renewal is still just that, words.
Blacks appear to be weary of waiting for Detroit to turn things around and have been migrating to nearby suburbs in search of comfort, better schools and lower crime.
The city's black population was nearly 776,000 in 1990. By 2013 it had dipped to an estimated 554,000.
Elizabeth St. Clair, 27, and her family may count themselves among black former Detroiters.
St. Clair and her boyfriend are searching for rental homes in Detroit and several inner-ring suburbs. She has two school-aged children.
She acknowledges things are getting better — pointing out Detroit's current campaign to tear down vacant houses and eradicate blight. But the high cost of car insurance, underperforming schools and the condition of many neighborhoods are obstacles.
"As I see a resurgence of Detroit, I really want to stay here," St. Clair said. "I feel there are two Detroits. There's a Detroit where you are able to go downtown and enjoy, and then in our neighborhoods there's not much change."
So the hip downtown entertainment district is getting a facelift, and attracting white people. But the black folks that already live in Detroit aren't seeing any improvement at all, and they're leaving.
If this seems like this is all being done on purpose, and for a specific reason, you're not alone.