Newly released U.S. Census Bureau data shows Flint’s recovery is moving forward, and some residents say they are feeling that positive momentum around the city as meaningful markers of progress are improving the lives of those who work and play there.
On Thursday, the U.S. Census Bureau released new information about national income levels through its American Community Survey, also known as the ACS. According to survey estimates, the share of the U.S. population with incomes below the poverty level dropped between 2017 and 2018 — the fifth consecutive annual drop.
In Flint, the median income increased 9.5 percent from a median of $26,330 in 2017 to $28,844 in 2018, ranking it as the second lowest median household income among U.S. cities with 65,000 or more residents.
Last year, Flint ranked No. 1 for the nation’s highest poverty rate. In this most recent data release, that position now belongs to Camden, N.J. Camden’s 2018 poverty rate is 41 percent; Flint comes in at 35 percent. Detroit, by comparison, has a 33.4 percent poverty rate.
While there is still much room to improve, some residents said they felt these newly released numbers shine a light on the way Flint is moving forward.
“My reaction is very positive,” said Gary Flinn, a Flint resident and local author. “The rise in median income for Flint residents is another example of the good things happening in Flint in recent years in reaction to the water crisis.
Flinn said he has been impressed with the amount of investment and interest in Flint over the past few years as well.
“Just this week, I took part in the dedication, just a block away from where I live, of the Coolidge Park Apartments which utilizes the former Coolidge School that closed in 2011 which has been beautifully restored. Now under construction is a downtown hotel in the former Genesee Bank Building which had been vacant for several years,” Flinn said.
Businesses also are showing a growth pattern. Glam Box Boutique opened its third shop in downtown Flint. Growth experts at Metro Community Development are expanding operations with its new headquarters development and helping shepherd the growth of clients like newly-opened Yum Vittles Mobile Food Truck, whose early success is driving its search for a bricks and mortar location. Serenity Funeral Home recentaly added a second location to its operations. .Additionally, new opportunities such as the Moving Flint Forward Small Business Grant Program, will help boost small business growth with an infusion of $200,000 through a partnership by General Motors and the Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce.
“While Flint still has a ways to go in returning to its pre-1980s glory years, the city is heading in the right direction,” Flinn added.
Other data points also show Flint’s overall health. According to Apartment List, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is down 0.1 percent over the past year with three months of consecutive rent decreases, said Sania Tran, content manager for Apartment List.
Tran said rents in Flint have declined 0.5 percent over the past month, and are down 0.1 percent year-over-year. Flint’s median two-bedroom rent of $714 is below the national average of $1,189. Other cities across the state have seen rents increase – of the largest 10 cities that we have data for in Michigan, 8 of them have seen prices rise, Tran added.
Census Bureau officials were largely optimistic about the data. For example, the one-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 ACS show declines in poverty in 14 states and Puerto Rico and in seven of the 25 most populous metropolitan areas.
“Each completed survey is important because it is a building block used to create statistics about communities in America,” Census Bureau American Community Survey Office Chief Donna Daily said in a statement. “This information provides an important tool for communities to make data-driven decisions, assess the past, and plan for the future.”
Detroit officials also said they were “encouraged” to see the improvements in their city and are working diligently to continue to improve residents’ lives.
Census Bureau data showed poverty in Detroit dropped for the third straight year in 2018 as 45,000 Detroiters moved out of poverty during that time. Just as encouraging, Detroit household income grew 20% in three years – almost doubling statewide household income growth during this period.
“In January 2015, the Mayor retooled the city’s employment strategies to focus on in-demand job sectors, and since then, we’ve seen sustained employment growth,” Nicole Sherard-Freeman, Executive Director of Workforce Development, said in a statement. “We’ll continue to focus on creating good opportunities for Detroiters to keep reducing poverty and building our city’s middle class.”
In Michigan as a whole, the state’s median household income was $56,697 in 2018, a 1 percent improvement from 2018, according to estimates. From 2015 to 2018, median household income across the state of Michigan grew by 11 percent.