Middle-Class Housing. The search is real.

As rental rates in Detroit’s downtown soar to $2.50—that’s $2,500 for a 1,000 sq ft rental—or more, we have to ask ourselves: Who can afford this? And what do we do when the market cannot sustain such a cost of living?

We sat down with MPA founder and principal, Michael Poris, to find out. ‘Wait, we are not San Francisco,” says Poris. “Incomes are not at San Francisco levels here. It is a challenge of figuring out how we build at reduced costs without sacrificing quality. Addressing what we refer to as ‘The Missing Middle’ is a design challenge.”

Detroit is finally beginning to overcome many of its hurdles and shedding its image of decay, yet we are not prone to pushing for economical thinking—maybe because we think it sounds boring? But it doesn’t have to be. Employing economy in development and design is vital, so we don’t push people out of the city that want to stay. There are many who have lived in downtown for generations but cannot manage $2.50/sq ft in rent. There are also those who want to live in and contribute to the city, but simply cannot afford to at that price. This is a critical conundrum for Detroit.

“Thinking about how to design our living spaces for the lives we live now is the focus of economy in design. What do we REALLY need in a space? How do we edit down to the core essentials? What is the simplest solution,” asks Poris, “Understanding HOW to value-engineer is key. And that is what we do for every project.” That way quality of design is not sacrificed. “We are living in a time where there are a higher number of renters, and yet millennials are starting to leave the city, to move into houses because they feel they are getting more for their money from a housing perspective.” We have to do something before it’s too late, we have to address the Missing Middle.

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