The BridgeDetroit newsroom convened a community conversation on the city’s east side with speakers from the Detroit Land Bank Authority, Wayne Metro Community Action Agency and Eastside Community Network to discuss housing resources including grants and helplines.
The event drew about 130 Detroiters seeking information on home repair funding, down payment assistance, housing counseling services as well as programs that allow residents and community groups to purchase vacant lots in their neighborhoods. Here’s a wrap up of what you should know:
Buying vacant lots
The land bank provided an overview on several land reuse strategies – the side lot, neighborhood lot and Create-a-Project program – which have varying rules and eligibility requirements but all aim to get vacant land into the hands of residents, block clubs, community organizations, nonprofits and faith-based groups.
Savannah Robbins, assistant director of planning and analysis and the land reuse manager for the land bank, noted DLBA maps out what programs are available and in what parts of the city.
“The first question is ‘are these programs available across the entire city?,’” she said. “While most of these programs are available in most areas, in some areas of the city these programs are limited or restricted.”
Side lots are available for $100 apiece to homeowners adjacent to eligible lots. For the neighborhood lot program, she said, the eligibility expands. Those lots are available for $250 each to homeowners occupying properties located within 500 feet, but require a neighborhood endorsement.
Create-a-Project is designed to sell up to four lots at $250 apiece to eligible nonprofit community organizations. The lots must be located within the organization’s designated neighborhood and the improvement projects need approval from the local district manager in the Department of Neighborhoods.
For more information on land use, visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Accountability for land bank home purchases
Antoine Glenn, assistant director of compliance for the land bank, said he wants Detroiters to know “who we are, what we do and how we do it.”
The DLBA’s compliance team, he said, works with property owners who have purchased homes from the land bank website as they do rehabilitation work.
“We are a team of compassion,” he said. “That’s who we are. That’s what we want to do for the community. We monitor, we advise and we coach.”
Glenn acknowledged Tuesday that the department has just 20 compliance representatives to “manage and monitor” more than 6,000 properties across the city’s seven council districts. Those who fall out of compliance are at risk of having their properties taken back by the land bank.
“We have a large team, but we also have a large undertaking with those 6,000 properties,” he said. “We do our best to coach and motivate throughout the process but sometimes it can get hard.”
Wayne Metro housing stability services
Sylvia Saldana, department director of housing services for Wayne Metro, shared details on the Detroit Housing Network (DHN), Detroit Housing Resources Helpline and the Down Payment Assistance Program.
The program was established in 2020 with the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department and the Community Housing Network, a collaboration of seven housing counseling agencies, that provide housing-related services for Detroiters. The program’s counselors work with residents to evaluate housing needs and their eligibility for housing stabilization programs and services.
Wayne Metro is the hub for Detroit’s housing counseling services for homelessness, rental housing, lead and senior home repairs and foreclosure advocacy for issues including outstanding property taxes and navigating land contracts.
The Down Payment Assistance Program is funded with $6 million from the American Rescue Plan Act to provide up to $25,000 toward down payments and closing costs for eligible Detroiters. To qualify, applicants must be income eligible and have lived in the city for at least a year and be a first-time homeowner or lost property to tax foreclosure between 2010 and 2016.
Wayne Metro also outlined a senior emergency home repair program, which can provide up to $15,000 to seniors in Detroit who qualify.
Some residents reiterated the dire need for housing renovation, saying “we need help, we don’t know what to do.” Others noted that they don’t qualify for the programs outlined and inquired whether other funding or programs will be opening up to meet their needs.
“We highlighted some main products and opportunities that are available, but there are so many more,” Syldana said in response to the concerns. “Like you said, you might not fit into this criteria here and that is true for many of the folks here.”
Syldana recommends residents who fall into that category connect with the Detroit Housing Network to link up with a counselor in their area to assess their specific housing and repair needs.
She also informed attendees of a state program – Michigan Homeowner Assistance Fund (MIHAF) – which was developed out of federal COVID rescue funding. It requires that homeowners tie job losses or other hardships to the pandemic to secure funding help.
DTE Energy Efficiency Assistance Program
Angela Brown Wilson, chief operating officer for ECN, said the organization processes applications, assess needs and hires contractors to perform work via the DTE program that helps families get new high efficiency furnaces, hot water tanks and central air conditioning. To qualify for the EAA program, the household income has to be at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, or $49,720 for a family of three. Those enrolled in state low-income public assistance programs like SNAP and WIC also qualify.
Detroit Home Repair Fund
ECN is also a partner in the Gilbert Family Foundation’s Detroit Home Repair Fund.
The DHRF — financed by the Gilbert Family Foundation, DTE Energy and health care organization ProMedica — was created to address roofs, stairs, windows, drywall and foundations.
The $20 million program was available first to community organizations working with DTE’s Energy Efficiency Assistance Program, including Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, the United Community Housing Coalition, Eastside Community Network, Matrix Human Services, CLEARCorps Detroit and EcoWorks.
“Our main commitment is that we want to create pathways to stable housing for people in our community,” Brown Wilson said. “That’s what we do.”
Detroit homeowners with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty line who have applied for the city of Detroit’s poverty tax exemption, better known as the HOPE program, are eligible to get assistance through the fund. There is no minimum or maximum amount that will be spent on each home.
For information on the Detroit Home Repair Fund, call (313) 306-2082.