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COVID-19 Impact on Michigan Communities: Risks, Interventions, Resources

May 20, 2020


There is no question. Michigan communities are encountering and will continue to feel the impacts of the COVID-19 public health and economic crisis.  As unemployment skyrockets, state and local revenue sources diminish, and public health costs soar, immediate action must be taken to preserve homes and businesses now and into the future.

To help, the Community Progress Michigan Initiatives team has assembled a list of critical resources to support urban, suburban, and rural communities across Michigan in assessing risks, planning interventions, and staying tapped into important recovery information moving forward.


Risks to Michigan Communities

Prior to the crisis, many Michigan residents were already struggling to afford housing costs and many communities already faced with the challenges of vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. Statewide unemployment is now above 20%, with some counties hit much harder and 8% who’ve filed are still without payment. Even as the state reopens, many tenants, homeowners, and businesses will struggle to pay rent, mortgages, and property taxes. Property owners strapped for cash, are more likely to defer property maintenance and needed repairs. These trends will only exacerbate Michigan’s current vacant property inventory, which exceeds more than 380,000 non-seasonal housing unitsand add to the public health costs of poorquality housing.  

  • Rise in Evictions: Michigan’s eviction moratorium is currently set to expire on June 11. The federal moratorium on federally subsidized rental properties or those with a federallybacked mortgage won’t end until late July, but only covers an estimated 28% of rental units in the U.S. In 2017 45% of renters across the state were overburdened (paying more than 30% of income), suggesting an already high number of vulnerable renters prior to the COVID-19 crisis.


Source: Policymap, Census 2014-2018


  • Increase in Property Tax Forfeiture and Foreclosure: Community Progress examined data from the State Treasury Department by county to observe the relationship between unemployment and property tax forfeiture during the last economic downturn. The table below shows that Michigan counties are at a higher risk of property tax forfeiture when unemployment increases.  


Source: Center for Community Progress, Bureau of Labor Statistics and Michigan Department of Treasury Notes: This shows property tax forfeitures as the assumed tax year, meaning a property owner would have stopped paying on property taxes approximately two years prior to the recorded forfeiture.


  • Growth in Mortgage Foreclosure:  In 2017, 20% of Michigan homeowners were already cost-burdened (paying over 30% of their income), an improvement from 30% during the Great Recession. While the impact is anticipated to be less severe than the foreclosure crisis with stronger protections in place, the potential is still great, especially as Michigan remains a predominantly homeownership state.  


Source: MSHDA Statewide Housing Needs Assessment, April 2019


How State, County and Local Governments are Taking Action Now to Prevent Vacant, Abandoned, and Deteriorated Properties  

As we point out in a recent bloglocal governments should be thinking about what they can do now to limit the negative impacts this economic downturn could have on their community, and seeking out state level and private sector support in these effortsThe decisions made now will have lasting impacts on the health, safety and financial well-being of Michigan residents. While this represents only a sliver of what’s needed, below are some early examples of interventions implemented by state, county and local government to keep people housed and prevent future vacancy.  

  • Efforts to provide more time to pay on mortgages, property taxes, and rent for property owners economically impacted by crisis.  
  • Efforts to provide payment relief on mortgages, property tax and rent for homeowners, businesses and tenants economically impacted by crisis.  
    • Many cities like Monroe, LAand counties like Hennepin County, MN across the country have established or enhanced rental and homeowner assistance funds and programs by leveraging local, state, and federal funding (e.g. CDBG and ESG) as well as partnerships with private organizations. Click here for a summary of rental assistance examples.  
    • Michigan established minimum mortgage protections including a 90-day forbearance period, 90-day late fee relief, and no adverse credit reporting for late payments by borrowers through the MiMortgage Relief Partnership. These protections help address the gap of homeowners without federally-backed loans (who are covered under the CARES Act protections).  
    • Ann Arbor, MI will provide property tax relief by waiving penalty charges for late property tax payments.   


COVID-19 Resources from Community Progress 

Community Progress is committed to providing communities with guidance, so you are well-equipped to mitigate community instability and vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties. Our COVID-19 Resource Center is updated regularly with information on local, state and federal actions being taken. For specific inquiries or to share how your community is addressing these challenges in Michigan, please contact: Payton Heins, Associate Director of Michigan Initiatives at [email protected]  


Michigan and National Resources 

Many Michigan and national organizations are advocating for critical funding at the state and federal level, as well as putting out informative webinars and other resources to support local community stabilization efforts.  



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