State lawmakers representing Detroit and Mayor Mike Duggan announced Friday that a city home repair program for low-income seniors and homeowners with disabilities received a $15 million boost. The goal is to fix up more roofs and windows. Detroiters can apply in October. (BridgeDetroit photo by Nushrat Rahman)

A city home repair program received an additional $15 million Friday to fix more roofs and windows for low-income Detroiters. 

State lawmakers representing Detroit joined Mayor Mike Duggan to announce that the Renew Detroit program — launched last year to repair roofs for income-eligible seniors and homeowners with disabilities — can now help 2,000 residents, instead of 1,500, with $45 million in pandemic relief aid. The program will begin taking applications this fall.  

“We have a lot of seniors in this city, who paid off their homes, lived in them most of their lives, and are low-income now. They’ve got leaky roofs, they’ve got problems with windows and the like. We want to make sure the folks who helped build this city can stay in that house,” Duggan said at a Friday news conference. 

Democratic state representatives Helena Scott, Shri Thanedar, Karen Whitsett, Tenisha Yancey and Stephanie Young helped secure the funds, Duggan said. The five lawmakers are currently running for office. 

“In addition to the short-term benefit and impact on the household itself, we also see this program having a long-term community impact that improves existing housing stock, increases area home values,” said Tonya Joy, director of Neighborhood Housing Initiatives for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority. 

Renew Detroit was the first initiative to come out of $826 million in federal COVID-19 recovery dollars the city received. Since then, those dollars have funded a range of city projects, including jobs training, income-based housing developments and a demolition contract

The first phase of Renew Detroit began last fall. The second phase, expected to cover roof and window repairs, will take applications between Oct. 1 and Oct. 31.

In order to qualify, homeowners must be at least 62 years old or be of any age with a disability. They have to be approved for a 2022 property tax exemption through the city’s Homeowner Property Exemption (HOPE) program and must not have received a city home repair grant of $10,000 or more in the past decade. 

Applications will be reviewed by spring 2023. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2024. 

Officials urged residents to apply for the HOPE program. For more information, go to detroitmi.gov/HOPE or call the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at 313-244-0274 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. 

Homeowners will be selected based on a score including how long they’ve owned the home, the number of people in the house, and the level of their property tax exemption. Applicants in an existing Senior Emergency Home Repair program wait list or those who weren’t able to get their property weatherized because of their roof will be prioritized. 

Those who qualified for the first phase of the Renew Detroit program, announced last fall, but who were not selected will be notified and assisted for the second phase. 

The program received 2,300 applicants who were eligible, said Heather Zygmontowicz, chief of Special Housing Programs. 

So far, 1,100 have been “conditionally selected” for the program meaning they met program requirements. The homes still need to be inspected to confirm residency, check that the roofs need repairs and make sure the home is in a condition to get the work done, Zygmontowicz said. The city has done roughly 850 home assessments. Final approvals are expected to land next week in mailboxes. 

When the program originally launched, the estimated price tag to repair a roof was between $7,000 to $13,000. Now, because of rising costs, those costs may run between $9,000 to $15,000, Zygmontowicz said. 

City Council earlier this week approved about $2.9 million in contracts for the first 200 roofs and work is slated to begin this September. 

Home repair was among the top concerns Detroiters raised when asked last year how they would like their city government to spend an influx of federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Researchers, residents and community organizations have said existing programs are difficult to tap into and don’t address the breadth of repair needs in the city.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we probably don’t get a call to our office or a reminder when we step foot in the community that we need more money for home repairs,” said Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield. 

An estimated 37,630 Detroit households live in “inadequate” conditions, according to an October report from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. That may include a home with exposed wiring or electrical issues, a broken furnace or no running water. 

Earlier this year, the Gilbert Family Foundation, DTE Energy and health care organization ProMedica launched the $20 million Detroit Home Repair Fund to help more than 1,000 Detroiters access home repair resources, over three years, through a network of nonprofits. 

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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