homes on a sunny day
The City of Detroit, Rocket Community Fund and United Community Housing Coalition have helped 1,396 Detroit families become homeowners since the launch of the Make It Home initiative. (BridgeDetroit photo by Christine Ferretti)

A program created to ensure Detroiters living in tax-foreclosed rentals aren’t displaced has helped 239 families become homeowners this year.

Make It Home launched in 2017 as a partnership between the Rocket Community Fund, United Community Housing Coalition and the City of Detroit. The initiative has helped 1,396 families overall become homeowners, officials said Thursday.

Under Make It Home, the city exercises its ‘right of refusal’ to purchase tax-foreclosed properties before the houses are sold at the county’s tax foreclosure auction. The properties are transferred to the coalition, which purchases them with funding provided by the Rocket Community Fund. UCHC then sells them to the residents through a 0% interest land contract with a payment plan. Once the sale price is paid off, the residents receive the deed. Make It Home also gives residents access to other resources, including home repair grants and loans and financial counseling.

“Make It Home is one of the most impactful programs that the city manages,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. “We are reducing the number of foreclosures in our city and helping to stabilize many of our neighborhoods, while also helping more Detroiters realize the dream of homeownership and building generational wealth.”

Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund, noted the program began with 80 participants and has since “built a force for creating homeownership and generational wealth.”

“Stable housing is just the beginning,” she added. “We are staying connected with Make It Home families to provide additional wraparound support.”

The No. 1 need identified by families is home repair resources, Granneman said, so the Rocket Community Fund is dedicating an additional $1 million to support grants and 0% interest loans for the new homeowners.

The University of Michigan Poverty Solutions recently found that 92% of Detroit residents who benefited from home repair services reported that the Make It Home repair program improved the safety of their housing and stability of their homeownership.

Make It Home began offering the home repair help services to eligible program participants in 2019. To date, there have been 1,025 completed repairs in more than 322 homes, officials said.

Barbara Sledge is one of the latest residents benefiting from Make It Home. This year, the 52-year-old will officially become a first-time homeowner.

Sledge has lived in her West End home for four years, paying rent on time and fixing up her home, program officials said Thursday. But she still was at risk of being evicted when her landlord lost the home due to nonpayment of taxes.

“Make It Home took a lot of stress off me because I wanted to stay in Detroit and didn’t want to lose my home. I always treated this home like mine, and I’m glad I can finally call it mine,” she said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to eventually passing this home down to my children one day and continuing to thrive and support my neighborhood.”

Besides its role in Make It Home, UCHC also helps thousands of families each year keep their homes through workshops on city assistance programs, including the Homeowner Property Exemption (HOPE), Pay As You Stay (PAYS) and the Gilbert Family Foundation-funded Detroit Tax Relief Fund.

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