"There is a resilience that rises from somewhere deep within your streets. You can't define it, but you can feel it. You can feel it overflowing from the people who call you home, from people who are always proud to declare, 'I'm from Detroit'." (Eminem - "Letter To Detroit").
Welcome to Motor City! Detroit is the hard-working city that put the automotive industry on the map—and the one currently struggling to keep it there.
Due to population transition in recent years, Detroit is undergoing a sort of accommodation renovation. Thus, apartment hunting in Detroit may feel daunting. Perhaps it’s a bit like thrift-store shopping in Bolshevik Russia. There are some splendid gems—but you’ll have to sort through the torn coats and empty vodka bottles to find them. Fear not: that’s why we’ve crafted this guide. Heed our counsel and you’ll be enjoying that International Skyline in style and comfort. First, however, here are some questions you may be too embarrassed to ask.
One of the most staggering figures from Detroit’s much-reported population decline was the following: from 2000 to 2010, one person left Detroit every 22 minutes. This figure is slightly misleading, however. The zone considered Detroit proper by the census bureau is far smaller than the metropolitan area. And most of those “leavers” actually just moved a little further out to one of Detroit’s many suburbs.
What does this mean for you, erstwhile apartment hunter? You guessed it! The housing industry is pulling out all the stops to get folks like you into their units. If you play your cards right, you can snag a dream apartment in the perfect location for a fraction of what your friends in New York and Los Angeles are paying.
The Detroit River forms the boundary line between the U.S. and Canada. Windsor, Ontario, is the Canadian doppelganger to Detroit—though the two are less similar than their skylines might suggest. Because of its two universities and diversified economy, Windsor attracts many immigrants, making it the fourth most cosmopolitan Canadian city.
Easy access to Canada equates to not a few perks for Detroit residents, and they don’t all have to do with vice. (Although it’s important to know where you can take your underage brother out for a drink or secure a year’s supply of absinthe and Cuban cigars.) For one, Ontario boasts an extensive parks service. In fact, Windsor’s nicknamed the “Rose City” for its many parks and sunken gardens. So if brick and mortar get you down, take a short swim and trade the Motor for the Rose for a day.
Now that we’ve covered some of the big-picture questions one has when considering a move to Detroit, let’s zero in on the specifics. This car model/neighborhood breakdown is not comprehensive, but will give you a solid basis on which to build: the distinctive lifestyle and price range that each section of Detroit has to offer.
2012 Cadillac XTS: Pure luxury. If you’re looking for the “I want you to feel uncomfortable about the level of comfort I enjoy” mode of Detroit lifestyle, look no further than Downtown. Live mere blocks from the Fox Theatre or Grand Circus Park. Public transport in Detroit is pretty slim; but living inside the Fisher Freeway affords serious walkability. Smaller single loft apartments in this highbrow’s heaven start at $700/month (add $100/month for waterfront units). Expect a 12-month lease.
1973 VW Beetle: Bohemian culture thrives in the margins. Between the luxury of Downtown and the (depending on your perspective) banality of the Northern Suburbs, Midtown looms not-so-largely as the alternative hipster haven. Like biking to the Majestic for late-night bowling, then to the Bronx Bar, Detroit’s original dive? Think that dilapidated house on the corner gives your street the benefit of authenticity? Then Midtown’s the district for you. There’s also a fabulous incentives program supported by a coalition of government authorities and private institutions. $500/month will get you an alcove studio on Woodward St.; for as little as $300/month, you can find a room in a student house near Wayne State University. Rental agreements are substantially less stringent in Midtown.
2006 Chrysler PT Cruiser: The east waterfront curves northward up around Grosse Pointe and Eastpointe, two highly attractive locations for commuters into Downtown Detroit. This area is known for its retirement community, so don’t be surprised if your neighbors frequently invite you to bingo or golf parties (at which they watch—not play—the Scottish sport). Commute time from the Pointes to the Renaissance Center is 15-20 minutes. $900/month for a two-bedroom condo near the Village shopping district in Grosse Pointe City is a steal—though check up on its renovation history, as this area catches a lot of inclement weather from Lake St. Clair.
2009 GM Minivan: Practical, spacious—the Northern Suburbs are white-collar bedroom communities. However, you don’t have to sacrifice decent food or nightlife to live here. Royal Oak is widely acknowledged to have one of the cutest Main Streets in the Midwest. $750/month will easily win you a two-bedroom duplex (add only $150/month more for another bedroom/office). Commute times from Oak Park and Ferndale range 20-25 minutes by car, 35-40 by bus. Birmingham, Southfield, and others further out will be longer and might not enjoy access to mass transit.
1990 Ford F150: Dearborn and the Eastern Burbs are typified as older, blue-collar communities. The general lack of full-time commuters into Detroit makes for stronger communities in these towns. Indeed, this is practically rural Michigan. Single apartments are sparse, but who needs ‘em when you can rent an entire two-bedroom house in Dearborn Heights for $650/month? Be sure to bring two personal references, though: out here, the opinion of a human matters more than your bank statements.
Whichever model you decide to drive out of the lot in, consider your basic needs and lifestyle. The affordability of Detroit is impressive; but ensure that wherever you land you’ll be able to ingest the harsh winters. What makes a true Detroiter? The good news is it doesn’t cost a lot to find out!
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