Friday, November 15, 2019

Reconsidering AirBnB in Detroit

AirBnB, Detroit
Home - Stock photo from Pexels
For several months, the City of Detroit has been looking for ways to better regulate short-term rental housing. This includes popular options like Airbnb and Homeaway that have been achieving more and more success in our area.

Critics of short-term rentals point to negative the impact these services have on hotels, housing prices, and the community at large. A study published in the Harvard Business Review, for example, showed that as more Airbnb rentals happened in a given area, the local rent prices would increase proportionately. In some cities, that increase has made a difference in whether or not someone could afford to live there.

These rentals also have a detrimental impact on hotels in the area, as Forbes magazine pointed out. This is important because traditional lodging options pay more taxes and generate more jobs. If hotels are hurt too much, we lose the thousands of jobs and millions in tax revenue that they create.

Supporters, however, point out that optins like Airbnb and Homeaway allow ordinary Detroiters to generate a few hundred dollars a month in extra income from an empty bedroom or two. That extra money can be invaluable to many families.

There is also the fact that when someone stays at a hotel by a large corporation like a Hilton or Marriott, much of the income generated from it leaves our state. In contrast, when money is spent with a small local person then, as a different study by Michigan State University pointed out, that money is more likely to be spent and reinvested locally.

Clearly, the ideal solution is to find some kind of balance that works for everyone. While I don't claim to have all of the answers, I do have a few ideas. For starters, let's talk taxes.

Taxes - Stock photo from Pexels
When someone rents a hotel room in Detroit for a night, they pay a 13% tax rate but when they rent an Airbnb for the same night, they only pay a 6% tax. The difference between the two tax rates is because, while both pay a 6% sales tax to the State of Michigan, short-term rentals do not pay either the 1% tax to Wayne County to support the stadiums nor the 6% tax to support the convention center.

This, I believe, is fundamentally unfair. There's no reason to tax one option for a night's lodging at one rate while taxing a different option at less than half that amount.

Therefore, I propose that we impose an additional 7% tax on short-term rentals in Detroit to even things out. I would further propose that most, if not all, of the revenue go towards improving mass transit. I say this because the stadiums and convention center are both doing just fine as is. Meanwhile, Detroit has what has been ranked as the worst mass transit system in the nation and could desperately use the extra revenue.

We could even add an extra 1 or 2% onto Lyft and Uber rides, while we're at it as well. This would bring them in line with the taxes that we levy on car rentals or taxi cabs. It would also generate even more revenue for mass transit.

The Detroit City Council looked into this issue in 2016; concluding that such a thing is indeed possible. We may have to put the question to a ballot referendum, much like we did with taxes for stadiums and convention center. However, I don't believe that would be a significant challenge.

Neighborhood - Stock photo by Pixabay
The next challenge is in terms of regulating how many Airbnbs can operate in the city. There was an efort by the City Council earlier this year to place a hard limit on the number of these rentals that could exist. This was intended to address the impact of these operation upon the housing market, which I mentioned earlier.

While that move was well-intended, I believe a better option would be to place on limit on the percentage of residential housing stock in a given area that may be used for such things. I believe it would be appropriate for a limit of 1 or 2% of the housing stock in any one square mile for short-term rentals.

In a place like the Warrendale neighborhood, with roughly 4,000 housing units per square mile, this would mean a limit of 40-80 homes that could be used for a short-term rental. As new housing is eventually added in, the limit would increase proportionately.

These, of course, are just a few ideas. I welcome feedback either in the comments below or by email.

This post is a part of the Warrendale Detroit Blog's Friday Focus series. The series endeavors to highlight news, events, and opinions that, in the view of this blog's publisher, don't get as much attention from the news media as they deserve.

Please follow this blog on Facebook for more great content. I'm also on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

District 7 holday party announced

Christmas | Photo by Larisa Koshkina on Pixabay
The District 7 team of Detroit invites everyone to celebrate the holiday season. They will host a holiday party on Thursday, December 5. It will run from 6 – 8 p.m. at the Brennan Pool House (21415 Plymouth Rd.), which is located at the northern end of Rouge Park.

All Detroiters are invited to attend this party. There is no charge for any residents to attend this holiday celebration.

The District 7 is a part of the City of Detroit’s Department of Neighborhoods. It includes the Warrendale neighborhood as well as the surrounding ones.

There is ample parking near the Brennan Pool House. It is also along the D-DOT Plymouth Rd. bus route. One can download a schedule for the Plymouth Rd. bus route from the D-DOT website.

This is the first of several holiday parties that will happen in the area. When more of these events are announced, I will post them to this blog.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Friends of Rouge Park to meet this Tuesday

The nonprofit advocacy group Friends of Rouge Park will have their next general membership meeting this coming Tuesday, November 19. It will start at 7:00pm at the Westside Christian Academy (9540 Bramell St.).

Their agenda for that evening will include a report from Alisha Bell. She is the President of the Wayne County Commission President as well as the Commissioner for District 7, which includes the Warrendale and surrounding neighborhoods. There will also be an update on the master plan for the park as well as reports from:

  • City of Detroit;
  • Detroit Outdoors;
  • Elite Archery;
  • Buffalo Soldiers; and
  • Motor City Mountain Biking Association.

Everyone who is interested in the future of the largest park in Detroit is welcome to attend this meeting.

Will Detroit be able to sweep this street?

DPW says they're going to sweep this - Photo by Frank Nemecek
According to the signs that are posted from one end of Ashton Ave. to the other in Warrendale, the City of Detroit's Department of Public Works is supposed to sweep the streets today. I mean, that is what the signs say.

Personally, I wonder if they're going to be able to do it. What do you think?

I mean, maybe if they got the sweepers really, really hot or something.

Update at 8:07 p.m.
The "no parking" signs are now gone. The street, however, has not been swept.

I'm totally shocked.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Job readiness workshop to be held tomorrow in Detroit

Training workshop - Illustration by Mohammed Hasan on Pixabay
The City of Detroit will host a job readiness workshop to better prepare unemployed and underemployed residents for the career that they desire. This important event will begin tomorrow, November 12 at 6 p.m. and will run until 7:30 p.m. that evening. This will happen in the St. Suzanne Cody Rouge Community Resource Center (19321 West Chicago), which is approximately one mile north of the Warrendale neighborhood.

One of the things that this workshop will discuss is the Detroit at Work program. That’s a program that provides job training and job placement assistance to Detroiters. It focuses on growing sectors such as construction, healthcare, hospitality and retail, information technology, and manufacturing.

They will also talk about financial education for Detroiters. Finally, during this workshop they will  provide advice on two other important details that are essential for getting the job you want. This is advice on how to interview for the job you want and how to dress for that job interview.

The Detroit at Work program currently has 7,249 job available in our area. More job opportunities are added all the time.

There is no charge to attend this workshop tomorrow. However, those wishing to attend are asked to RSPV by either calling Eric Fowlkes at (313) 236-3516 or emailing fowlkese [at] detroitmi [dot] gov. His email address, of course, is presented in a way that humans should be able to understand but that spam robots should find difficult.

The job readiness workshop is presented by the City of Detroit and Huntington Bank.

Help is here to get your finances in order

Getting a hand up - Photo by Tumisu on Pixabay
If you look at the statistics, it's clear that most Americans are a financial mess. The typical American family today has too much debt, not enough savings, no financial plan, no life insurance, and is basically one hardship away from financial ruin. The one ray of hope in this is that, for Detroiters at least, the Financial Empowerment Center is here to help.

The Financial Empowerment Center offers professional, one-on-one financial counseling as a free service to Detroiters. They enable residents to address their financial challenges and plan for their futures. The FEC is a partnership between the City of Detroit, the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, and Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency.

Residents receive free, one-on-one professional counseling assistance with their finances.The FEC's professional counselors can help Detroiters take control of their debt as well as:

  • Deal with debt collectors;
  • Improve your credit;
  • Build your savings;
  • Create a budget and create a plan to stick to it; and
  • Find safe and affordable financial products.

These professionally trained counselors support their clients in navigating complex financial challenges and choices. They help Detroiters identify and meet present challenges and future ambitions. Counseling services are integrated into other social services including housing and foreclosure prevention services, workforce development, prisoner reentry, and benefits access.

All of their counseling services, including credit report analysis, are availabel free of charge. There are no income limits or residency requirements. Interpreting and translation services are available upon request.

Detroiters are invited to schedule an appointment with a FEC counselor by calling (313) 322-6222. Appointments are available at the Wayne County Treasurer's Office (400 Monroe St.) downtown or at Wayne Metro Lakeshore (7310 Woodward Ave.), in the New Center area.

The Detroit Financial Empowerment Center is funded by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, JPMorgan Chase, Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, and the Skillman Foundation.

These tips are brought to you by the Warrendale Detroit Blog as part of our Tip of the Week series. Please check back next week for more advice on your home, money, and life. In the meantime, please feel free to follow the author Frank Nemecek on Twitter and Instagram as @fnemecek for more great content.

Review - Killng Quarry

Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins - Cover art by Paul Mann
Who put Quarry in the crosshairs?

That’s the question that drives Killing Quarry by the bestselling author of Road To Perdition, Max Allan Collins. It hits bookstores tomorrow but I got a chance to take a look at it ahead of time.

The titular character Quarry is a Marine sniper turned hitman. He has spent the past decade killing for money; first for an agent known only as The Broker and now as a freelance hitman. His one redeeming quality is that he has always been on the right side of those contract kills.

All of this changes while he is on an assignment. Someone tries to kill him. Quarry needs to find out who and why fast.

One of the things that I find to be very impressive about Killing Quarry is how Collins managed a very successful balancing act. This is his 16th Quarry novel, which means that his character has a lot of backstory already built up.

In this installment, Collins was able to remain consistent with the legacy yet not get so caught up in it that readers who never read any of the previous installment could still understand and enjoy his story. He carefully drops enough details about the character in the first couple of chapters that a first-timer could feel caught up yet not so many details that returning readers feel weighed down.

“The Quarry books are some of our most popular and been too long since readers have had the pleasure of a new one,” explained Charles Ardai who founded and edits Hard Case Crime, which publishes the Quarry novels. “We’re thrilled to bring this classic antihero back to put him through the wringer like he’s never been before.”

One other thing that I liked about this book is the way Collins handled turning the proverbial tables on his main character. It felt authentic and engaging. In my experience, very few novelists can maintain that sense of authenticity and engagement after this many stories. Even Ian Fleming only managed to hold it together for 12 James Bond novels and two collections of short stories.

For all of those reasons, I’m proud to recommend Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins.

Killing Quarry by Max Allan Collins is available for pre-order now on by clicking here or on the graphic below. It is also available at fine bookstores everywhere.

The Warrendale Detroit Blog is proud to offer occassional reviews of books that we enjoy.