muckraker report

Up close: 8 most abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit

Abandoned house

By Steve Neavling

Eight neighborhoods in Detroit have been so ravaged by crime, foreclosures, fires and scrappers that more than a third of the homes and businesses are abandoned, according to recently released findings from an unprecedented survey of every Detroit parcel.

Many of the areas have been consumed by thick brush, collapsing houses and discarded tires.

A quarter of the city’s houses and buildings are vacant, according to the survey led by the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force and Motor City Mapping. Below is a ranking of neighborhoods with the highest percentage of vacant homes and buildings.

8. Brightmoor

% of unoccupied buildings: 34.2%
# of unoccupied buildings: 1,636

In the 1920s, Brightmoor was a neighborhood of modest homes for working-class immigrants and southerners who came to Detroit for auto jobs. But residential flight over the past five decades has turned some of the neighborhood into an urban prairie, making it an ideal location for small farms. The area, however, is rife with violent crime.


Via Data Driven Detroit










7. Burbank

% of unoccupied buildings: 34.4%
# of unoccupied buildings: 2,377

Large swaths of this neighborhood are vacant and burned out, with deteriorating commercial strips along E. 7 Mile and a section of Hayes. Dominated by modest houses built in the 1920s and ’30s, the east-side neighborhood was predominately white until the 1980s. It is now the youngest neighborhood in Detroit, with 25% of its population under the age of 18, according to the 2010 census.


Via Data Driven Detroit


6. Ravendale

% of unoccupied buildings: 35.5%
# of unoccupied buildings: 2,512

Bordering a blighted stretch of Gratiot to the west, this neighborhood has a lot of bungalows and other middle-income homes built primarily in the 1920s. The abandonment changes drastically by the block, with some streets lined with empty lots and crumbling houses. East Outer Drive has managed to remain relatively occupied.


Via Data Driven Detroit

Ravendale15. State Fair

% of unoccupied buildings: 35.6%
# of unoccupied buildings: 933

Just south of the old Michigan State Fairgrounds, this small neighborhood sprang up in the late 1910s and early 1920s and is bordered by 8 Mile to the north and Woodward to the west. It has a variety of single family homes. The vast empty lots have made this a prime spot for dumping.

State Fair

Via Data Driven Detroit

State Fair

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  • WIltonguy45

    The Federal Govt should make this the number one urban blight removal project, not only would it create thousands of jobs they could raze everything that is abandonded and reclaim the land back to open space.

  • zaumuse

    I started wondering why the areas in the pictures declined in such a short time. I have seen good and bad things in blighted neighborhoods. The neighbors who have lived here for over 15 years try hard to keep up with their homes despite the constant abandonment. I have seen squatters move into a trashed abandoned home and fix it up. Sometimes, but rarely, it is drug users, but it is usually a young family with small children who had an abusive life and decided they could do better on their own. Yes, they can get a better education,thus a job, but cannot pay for the expensive daycare. They can’t truly afford housing working at fast food restaurants or car washes, these are the jobs where everyone sees young people, but dont think much about it. They are the ones who usually live as squatters. They hide from the government. Sometimes, more than one family lives in the house if they have small children. Non of us wants to see this type of blight grow. it would help if the government could leave a note on the doors of these houses to let the squatters know that they wont put them out until either the owner claims the house and fixes it up, or until it is sold for taxes, which they are offered an opportunity to acquire it. Its not WHERE you live, but HOW you live.

  • Adam Rich

    Black cuture: rent, destroy, strip, move.

  • bonniebucqueroux

    You do great work, Steve.

  • Thomas C. Pedroni

    Steve, the juxtaposition of the photos is fascinating. Was your source for the 2009/2013 comparisons Google Streetview? It occurs to me we should be videoing whole neighborhoods to document rapid decline like this. Would you say these are perfect but not representative examples? If not, it would be amazing to have rolling video of block after block comparing during the crash/ four years later.

  • Alex Iwanyszyn

    Shows what a corupt Mayor can do to a city!

    • RevJac

      Corrupt banking system would be more correct, they took the properties back and did nothing with reoccupying them and made profit from the insurances they carried.

    • jayareo

      Well, a corrupt mayor of what – 28 years – followed by another dozen + years of (at BEST) incompetence??

  • Dennis Galloup

    Somethings wrong with some of these photos, most are a 4 year time span but yet the trees and foliage shows the growth of more like a 6 to 10 year growth span, not saying Detroit isn’t a mess just looks like more years than 4 in some of the pics.

    • JC

      Wild mulberry trees grow very fast.

    • mrdumbcrow

      Google maps now has a history feature so you can look back on old street views. I believe that is where most of these came from.

  • Michael A Brouwer

    Most of these homes were paid for long ago…the banks are not the issue (or a scapegoat).

    • SnowStormsinDetroit

      You’re not just wrong. But you’re very wrong.

      The banks let anyone and their dog refinance houses to get extra cash. Those who had homes paid off were the ones MOST PREFERRED by the banks to receive new financing.

      It’s true the city evicted many people over unpaid property taxes, but most of these homeowners were already going thru foreclosure w/the banks.

  • queenie1

    This is sickening – in FOUR YEARS these neighborhoods were destroyed. You can’t tell me that it’s because people didn’t care and just walked away from all these houses – this is squarely because of the banks. It didn’t make any sense to me when it was happening, kick someone out of the house if they didn’t make their payments, but then leave it vacant to be destroyed. Should have just let the people stay, they knew they weren’t going to be able to re-sel those houses.

    • bebow

      Don’t forget the tax delinquent slumlords and their narcotics-trafficking tenants.

      • Daniel Knight

        Smeech: Liono, it’s the Slumlords, should we
        attack them?

        Liono: No Smeech, they are too powerful for us right now, they have the power of the Slum Stench and an army of Druggie Zombies and Junkie Gangs, we need to gather the forces of good together, the CatFighters, and use the combined power of all the magical stray cats to vanquish them once and for all!

        Smeech: Can I cut their heads off?

        Liono: Smeech no! Bad Smeech!

        Smeech: Meow I’m so sorry. Meow.

    • Amber Smith

      The worst part is I know someone who was just tryjng to refinance — their house was worth over $30,000 less than what they were mortgaged for after the market fell. The bank refused to refinance them so they just let the house go. Its ridiculous.

      • queenie1

        Exactly what I’m talking about Amber.

    • Shai_Hulud

      I don’t disagree with you, but do want to point out that the percentage listed is of the buildings remaining. Some of the neighborhoods listed have been in decline for decades and many of the original homes would have been demolished long before the first photos were taken. You can see in some of the 2009 pictures that the occupied homes have vacant lots on either side.

      When you consider that 20% of the neighborhood may have already been demolished, and that that neighborhood was 10% vacant before the crash, it becomes easier to understand how these areas cleared out so fast.

    • jayareo

      Woah – the BANKS are to blame? That is ridiculous. To blame any single source is folly. There are too many factors at work in the demise of these neighborhoods!! Do the banks contribute to the problem, probably. Dont forget poverty, corruption, drugs, violence, illiteracy, etc.

      They all have a hand here ….

  • Dan Pantalleresco


  • Billy Blake

    My Upper Westside neighborhood is nice. I’m blessed and truly grateful for what I have. Thank You Lord