For the full report, prepared by Global Detroit following two years of research and engagement, visit buildinginclusivecities.org.
Immigrant inclusion is a powerful strategy to revitalize neighborhoods.
Over the last decade an increasing number of post-industrial U.S. cities are recognizing the value of immigrant inclusion as a pathway to building more equitable and prosperous communities. Many of these communities have developed programs and policies to become more welcoming to immigrants and to help immigrants connect to the tools and resources they need to thrive in their new homes. But immigrant inclusion can also be a concrete, highly effective strategy to stabilize and revitalize disinvested neighborhoods.
Building Inclusive Cities: Immigration and Neighborhood Change in Detroit is one of the first research studies to chronicle the neighborhood-level impacts of rapid immigration growth. Focused on changes in two Detroit neighborhoods—Banglatown/East Davison Village and Chadsey Condon—our study offers insight into why immigrants are drawn to the Detroit region and to these neighborhoods, and details the assets, strategies and resources they have used to thrive in their new communities. At the same time, we sought to understand the impacts that rapid immigration has on the long-time, largely African American residents within these neighborhoods. Our findings have implications far beyond Detroit, and could be applied to many post-industrial cities across the U.S.
We hope and intend that policymakers, planners, community development practitioners, financial institutions, philanthropic leaders, neighborhood activists, local government officials, business leaders and all those who make important contributions to Detroit neighborhoods will find this report instructive. We also intend for this report to be useful to our many local partners, including residents and neighborhood organizations, as well as our peer immigrant-inclusive economic development practitioners and those working to address the impacts of disinvestment and systemic racism in other cities across the nation. Working together, we can ensure institutions, policies, investments and opportunities impacting Detroit’s neighborhoods—and neighborhoods across the U.S.—work for everyone.
Our research chronicles the positive contributions immigrant residents have made to density and vibrancy of two Detroit neighborhoods: Banglatown/East Davison Village and Chadsey Condon.
In these neighborhoods, newer immigrant residents are buying and improving homes, as well as opening businesses, almost entirely with private funds. This investment is occurring almost entirely from the ground up, without institutional support or massive public subsidy, and benefits, rather than displaces, long-term residents.
Specifically, our research documented the following, in comparison to the city as a whole:
- Both neighborhoods experienced population growth, stabilizing from years of population loss, while citywide population numbers continued to decline.
- Residents felt more positive about their quality of life
- Housing vacancies, as well as tax delinquencies and foreclosures, were significantly lower
- Eviction rates were only one-third that of the city as a whole
- Crime rates were significantly lower and declining relative to the rest of the city
- Both neighborhoods show strong real estate activity and rising home ownership rates. Much of the homebuying is being done outside the formal banking and mortgage financial systems.
- There is significant retail business, especially along Conant Street in Banglatown neighborhood, including the revitalization of formerly vacant storefronts
Drivers of Change
In addition to statistical analysis, we conducted interviews with residents and leaders in both communities, conducted four focus groups and added information from planning documents, research studies and Global Detroit’s experience working in Detroit’s neighborhoods, to identify the driving forces behind immigration in our two study neighborhoods.
Jobs as Generators of Immigration and as Pathways to Success
Many Bangladeshis already in the United States moved to the Detroit area based on word-of-mouth information about job opportunities. A cluster of employers in the automotive sector in Detroit’s suburbs were well-known in the Bangladeshi community as firms that hired Bangladeshi workers. Among these employers, the presence of a large Bangla-speaking workforce provided a support system, while as these work destinations became established, an informal network of jitneys emerged to transport workers from Banglatown/Davison to their suburban jobs. In Chadsey Condon, many Dominican and other Spanish-speaking workers were able to attain employment at Mexican Industries, a now-defunct, Latinx-owned auto supplier. The need for more workers at this and other automotive suppliers and facilities encouraged Dominican and Mexican residents to recruit relatives and friends to come to Detroit.
The Pull of Community
The cultural support system that has developed in these neighborhoods has created a strong sense of community that not only draws immigrants to these neighborhoods, but encourages them to purchase homes and build strong neighborhood connections. This is particularly strong in Banglatown, where Conant Street today offers over 100 stores, services and community institutions serving the Bangladeshi and Yemeni communities.
Housing as Opportunity
Homeownership is seen by many immigrant families as a springboard for prosperity. They often utilize nontraditional or informal methods to purchase homes and rehab vacant properties, both for themselves and as investments. An informal network of contractors, craftspeople, realtors and others sustains these nontraditional paths to homeownership.
Small business is a significant source of income and wealth building for immigrant entrepreneurs, and a powerful catalyst for commercial corridor revitalization. Immigrant entrepreneurs have transformed Conant Avenue into a vibrant shopping destination.
Immigrant residents in both neighborhoods feel largely disconnected from local government and municipal services. Despite the strong ties immigrants have to their neighborhoods, their lack of connection to local government may spur suburban out-migration unless they can be more strongly engaged with their neighbors and the city as a whole.
Throughout our research, we have sought to leverage the strengths and unique assets we’ve observed in Banglatown/East Davison Village and Chadsey Condon to shape recommendations that would positively impact all Detroiters—immigrants and long-time residents alike. Our recommendations, which we hope will influence policy and practices in Detroit and legacy cities across the U.S., include:
Expand homeownership by better connecting Detroiters to low-cost, easy-to-navigate vacant property rehab programs, especially the Detroit Land Bank, and provide a support system for property owners engaged in rehab work.
Improve access to jobs, workforce development, education, training and career development services.
Support the growth and development of immigrant small businesses.
Build stronger links and networks among immigrant communities, and between immigrant and long-time neighborhood residents to enhance social cohesion.
Initiatives for Women
Provide targeted initiatives and opportunities for immigrant women.
Support emerging community organization within immigrant communities and build a network of “trusted connectors” to connect immigrant communities with mainstream resources.
Increase immigrant hiring in municipal government and other public sector arenas.