Mayor Mike Duggan launched the City’s 25-day campaign to hear about how residents think a historic amount of federal aid should be spent. At the initial meeting, many residents said home repair should be a top priority.
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That may seem small to some, but it speaks to the fact that tens of thousands of occupied homes in Detroit are becoming increasingly dangerous due to years of neglected upkeep, according to several academics and a dozen housing advocates.
The need for major home repair — with leaking roofs, broken furnaces and faulty wiring among the top issues — has reached crisis level citywide. It’s a health risk to the many residents living in the conditions.
As the repairs pile up, fewer residents have the means to fix the problems, according to two recent studies and city housing advocates. A growing number of lower-income Detroit residents can’t get loans from private financial institutions, and there are insufficient funds from grants and other programs.
A recent U-M study estimates more than 24,000 housing units in Detroit are “severely or moderately inadequate” — a description covering a wide range of risky living conditions. It’s the first time any group has attempted to estimate the number of Detroit housing units in need of urgent repair. The 24,000 figure represents 5% of the city’s occupied residences. But many nonprofits dealing with the issue say 24,000 vastly undercounts the real number of Detroit residences in urgent need.
Though 24,000 residences needed major repairs, in 2018, only 2,934 homes were able to gain access to funds, such as grants and loans aimed at low-income residents, according to the U-M study. The low number of those who received assistance shows the dearth of available funding.
That’s why out of the 33 Detroit residents who spoke at Tuesday night’s meeting, a dozen brought up home repair.
Detroit is ultimately getting $826 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, with $400 million on the way soon. At this point, Duggan has earmarked $20 million for home repairs that would be available for seniors and low-income homeowners.
But Tuesday’s meeting was the start of a 25-day campaign in which the City will hold at least 25 community meetings on how to spend the $826 million. At each meeting, residents will get a chance to tell City officials what they think the top priorities should be for the federal aid.
The mayor will be holding meetings throughout the city and in all of the council districts. Here’s the full list of community meetings.