Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Political Science


Mollenkopf, John


John Goering

Committee Members

John Goering

Alan DiGaetano

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Other Political Science | Urban Studies


Baltimore, Detroit, mortgage foreclosures, governance, community development


In the United States, the late 2000s were a time of crisis that tested many urban decision-makers. The recession that started in 2007 was defined by a severe crash in the housing market and the proliferation of mortgage foreclosures across the country. Foreclosures occurred in urban, suburban, and rural communities, but had a particularly devastating impact on larger, older cities and their low and moderate-income neighborhoods. These cities had been dealing with economic and population decline for half a century. In many of their urban neighborhoods, foreclosures affected as many as one in four households and added yet another challenge to improving the quality of life for residents.

However, despite sharing historical characteristics of population and job decline and demographic change from majority white to majority black, some older, larger cities fared quite differently in the mortgage foreclosures crisis. For example, in 2007, the Baltimore metropolitan region in Maryland had a foreclosure rate of 0.7 percent compared to the Detroit metropolitan region in Michigan whose rate was 4.9 percent (RealtyTrac 2008). Since 1950, these cities have seen drastic declines in population, as well as rising unemployment rates as major industries have left the area. Both cities have been left with high rates of vacant properties, high poverty rates, and low housing values for most of the past few decades. Given these similarities, it is clear that the local economic environment cannot be the sole factor in determining the fate of cities like Baltimore and Detroit. The disparity in foreclosure rates points to the possible explanatory value of other differences, such as local political arrangements and how those affect the ability of networks of stakeholders, or governing coalitions, to prepare for and respond to the crisis.

Cities and their decision-makers provide an isolated and contained environment within which to examine responses to crises. By using the foreclosure crisis as a test, my research on Baltimore and Detroit aims to uncover what kinds of governing coalitions and their resultant actions may have contributed to resiliency in these cities to withstand and address the mortgage foreclosure crisis. By examining the political histories of the governing coalitions in both cities, this dissertation argues that the greater involvement of community development interests in Baltimore contributed to a stronger community development sector overall. During the foreclosure crisis, stakeholders in Baltimore were able to launch a quicker response to the crisis and the housing market in that city remained more stable.

In addition to making a contribution to the literature on urban development and governance, this research will address the contemporary situation of urban, low and moderate-income neighborhoods of color, many of which face on-going challenges from high crime rates, low public and private investment, low-quality services and loss of wealth. High mortgage foreclosure rates in such neighborhoods compound these problems and make it difficult for these communities, and the cities which contain them, to become and remain stable and sustainable. Understanding how local policies affect these processes could help urban governments promote greater neighborhood equity, growth and opportunity.