The new down payment assistance initiative — funded by $6 million in federal pandemic relief aid — that would provide residents with up to $25,000 in down payment assistance toward a home in Detroit. (BridgeDetroit file photo)

City of Detroit officials on Thursday announced a new program to help renters and some overtaxed Detroiters become homeowners.

This story also appeared in Detroit Free Press

Mayor Mike Duggan joined city council members to launch the initiative — funded by $6 million in federal pandemic relief aid — that would provide residents with up to $25,000 in down payment assistance toward a home in Detroit. It’s meant for people who can afford a monthly mortgage but don’t have enough money for a down payment. Officials expect the program to help as many as 400 Detroiters.

“This is for people in the city who are paying $800, $1,000, $1,200 a month in rent. If you are paying that now, there is an excellent chance you can buy a house and pay your taxes and it’ll cost you less per month than it does to rent,” Duggan said at a news conference. 

Councilmember Latisha Johnson, who advocated for the program as part of a broad $203 million plan to stabilize housing for city residents, said the program will catapult hundreds of Detroit families into a better life.

“They will be more secure in their present, knowing that they can have a place to call home, while at the same time building generational wealth for their future,” she said.

Council officials touted the new program as a way to ramp up homeownership, especially for Black Detroiters, and remove financial barriers to owning a home.

A 2021 analysis from the University of Michigan found that thousands of Detroiters wanted to become homeowners between 2015 and 2019, but many didn’t end up getting a mortgage, demonstrating the challenges city residents face when purchasing homes. People couldn’t find a home in the area they wanted, weren’t approved for loans, needed to work on their credit score and homes needed too many repairs.  

“Our research and experience has shown us that Detroiters can afford the mortgage. It’s just that they don’t have the funds for the down payment and the closing costs,” said Dina Harris, founder and president of the Detroit-based National Faith Homebuyers, the nonprofit administering the program.

How it works

The down payment assistance program — which is running on a first come first served basis — is targeted toward renters but it is also available to those who lost their homes to property tax foreclosure from 2010 to 2016 from over assessments and want to buy a new house.

Eligibility requirements

  • The applicant — who has to prove they lived in Detroit for the last 12 months or lost their homes to tax foreclosure — must not have owned a home in the past three years.
  • The total household income cannot exceed the following income thresholds: $43,740 for a one person household; $59,160 for two; $74,580 for four; $105,420 for five; $120,840 for six; $136,260 for seven, and $151,680 for eight.

How the grant money can be used

Those who receive the grant must use the home as their principal residence for three years after the award or pay it back on a pro-rated basis depending on how long they lived in the house after they received the grant. Applicants can use the grant when buying a home using a purchase mortgage or renovation mortgage. The homes will be inspected and must be up to code. 

The dollars can also be used for escrow deposits for property taxes, closing costs and interest rate and principal reductions.

How to apply

  • Find a lender from among 13 participating companies: Bank of America, Chase, CIBC, Citizens, Fifth Third Bank, First Independence Bank, First Merchants Bank, Flagstar Bank, Huntington Bank, Independent Bank, Liberty Bank, PNC Bank and Rocket Mortgage. The program does not have a credit score requirement but applicants have to be pre-qualified by their lender.
  • Find a house they want to buy and then go to to apply or call the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency at 313-244-0274.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project.

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