Tens of thousands, if not more, of Detroit’s occupied homes need urgent repair. (BridgeDetroit photo by Valuarian Waller)

When housing advocates and academics say Detroit faces a home repair crisis, they are not talking about owners wanting hardwood floors or marble countertops. 

Tens of thousands — if not more — homes are dangerous to live in and threaten the rebounding housing market of many neighborhoods. 

A recent University of Michigan study tried for the first time to count how many Detroit homes need urgent repairs. It estimated 24,000 homes need major fixes, such as leaking roofs, broken furnaces and faulty wiring. The 24,000 estimate adds up to 5 percent of the city’s housing stock. Housing advocates contend the real number is far higher.  

As repairs pile up, fewer residents have the means to fix the problems. Many Detroiters can’t get loans from private financial institutions, and there are insufficient funds from grants and other programs. The U-M study found only 2,934 homes were able to gain access to funds, such as grants and loans, in 2018. 

The massive need for home repair exposes a harsh truth about Detroit’s unbalanced housing market, said U-M researcher Alexa Eisenberg. She’s the lead author of a recent study about the city’s home repair needs.  “For most Detroit residents with low incomes, safe and affordable housing is far out of reach,” Eisenberg said.

The optimistic news is that more policymakers, housing advocates and foundations like the Rocket Community Fund are paying more attention to the issue. That should result in more funding and reform efforts. 

For now, here’s an overview of the city’s home repair needs, the many health risks linked to homes in disrepair, and links to resources for residents to get help. 

The Detroit Home Repair Guide provides details on grant, loan and other funding programs, along with contact information. CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD YOUR COPY

A guide to various home repair loans, grants and other programs. 

Detroit Home Repair Resource Guide: A 2019 compilation of programs offering help for residents. The list includes contact information for many nonprofits and other agencies that are key facilitators. The City of Detroit, United Community Housing Coalition and several other organizations are listed in the 70-page guide.

Top 10 repair issues in Detroit homes 

  1. Uncomfortably cold for 24 hours or more  
  2. Water leakage from outside the structure     
  3. Water leakage from inside the structure      
  4. Electrical fuses or circuit breakers blown in last three months  
  5. Signs of mice or rats inside the home in the last 12 months     
  6. Foundation crumbling 
  7. Open cracks or holes (interior) 
  8. Missing roofing material  
  9. Broken windows 
  10. Missing bricks, siding, or other outside wall material 

Source: “The Status of Home Repair,” Poverty Solutions at University of Michigan, October 2020.


The health risks of housing that needs urgent repair

  • Housing and physical health are strongly correlated. Dwellings that are damp, cold and toxic (i.e. lead and mold exposure) increase the risk of tuberculosis, recurrent headaches, sore throat, cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and lung cancer.
  • Mental health impact. Leaky roofs, broken windows and pest infestation are strong predictors of emotional and behavioral problems in low-income children.
  • Exacerbates chronic disease, particularly among children. Water leaks, poor ventilation and pest infestation are associated with poor health outcomes, including asthma, the most common chronic disease among children.
  • Seniors living in houses with inadequate heat are vulnerable. Seniors living in cold environments face increased respiratory problems, which have been associated with increased mortality. 

Source: “The Status of Home Repair,” Poverty Solutions at University of Michigan, October 2020. 


This 2020 U-M study is believed to be the first to estimate how many Detroit homes need urgent repair. It also delves into the root causes of the issue.

The 2020 update of “Neighbor-to-Neighbor” report by Rocket Community Fund.

The report deals mainly with tax foreclosure issues but also addresses the growing need for home repair funds. 

Louis Aguilar is BridgeDetroit’s senior reporter. He covered business and development for the Detroit News, and is a former reporter for the Washington Post.

Join the Conversation


  1. I have a huge tree in my backyard. That I need remove. Because it is causing damage to my neighbors roofs. Can a get some info on how I can get this tree cut down. Please I need help

  2. My roofing tiles are falling off. There is currently a hole in my stairway ceiling from the leak.

    I also have a large tree in my front yard that has bark and branches falling.

    I cannot afford to make these repair and/or get the tree cut down. I am a senior citizen (retired). At present, I can pay my bills (but if prices keep going up) I don’t know for how much longer. At my age, it will be difficult to find employment.

  3. My garage roof is caving in. I have a leak coming from my top porch into my kitchen cabinets. I am a senior living alone now since my husband ( who was the breadwinner in my home with receiving disability because he had Parkinson’s Disease) passed away in late 2020. I am struggling to keep my home – but I need help desperately.

  4. I totally understand the crisis we’re facing with major home repairs. I live in the Boston Edison District I am in desperate need of a new roof, as well as a lot of other things. But when it rains I actually have water coming into my home. I’ve been searching for grants or any kind of help. I have to say it’s very discouraging! They’re bringing the city back, but the funds aren’t reaching the people in the community, like myself. I’m tired of seeing or hearing that help is coming. This house has been in my family since 1949 & it’s a shame I can’t get ANY help!!!!!!!

  5. I am a retired senior, with a huge tree in my back yard. It have falling branches that fall when the wind is high. I fear it’s going to fall, and take my house and garage and my neighbor home out as well. I fear for my great grand babies to play out when they visit. I can not afford this bill, I need help with this tree.Maybe you can connect me to a company that will work with me,a reasonable price, or something. Thanks.

  6. I’m a senior I need assistance with windows replacement and install a toilet,cracked foundation (basement),doors replacements security (storm)air coming in because door is not sealed and energy efficient…Help please I have tried to get help for so long…Thank you in advance for any help…that u can help me with is appreciated

  7. Hello, I need assistance in repairing my roof, which is expensive and I am low income worker. I live in Ecorse Michigan if you can refer me to someone that has a reputable repair history I would truly appreciate you. I can pay something but cannot afford the entire amount.
    Thank you

  8. I’m in desperate need for my gutters to be replaced water is coming in house and I need two doors replaced they are not safe someone can get in house I’m disabled and my grandson lives with me and he’s totally disabled

  9. My Grandmother’s home is in need
    , especially plumbing. Her furnace is also 35+years old. How can we get her some assistance.

  10. I was blessed with a house a fixer upper home, after I had to relocate from Orlando Florida due to a house fire, The house is livable, as far as water, bathroom, kitchen even washer and dryer. The house was built in 1948 have not had a lot of repairs other then the roof and furnace, and that was done about 6 years ago, There are very large holes in the dining room and living room the walls have to be repainted and drywall through the house, I need gutters, siding, there is a slight leak in the basement coming from bathroom tube, the kitchen and bathroom need to be updated as well, I have 2 children living with me 17 and 13, If there is any help I would love to repair my forever home.

  11. I am a senior citizen and I worked for several years. My occupation was s teacher, with charter schools. My pay was minimum so that I could only pay my bills the schools did not provide a retirement 2010. I am not able to work now. I had a stroke on Oct.2019. I live in Detroit, MI I have lived in my home for at least 30 years. I have been married for 22 years. My husband is recovering from renal cancer, septic infection, leak in his pituitary gland in his brain, he is suffering from depression and he do not have any income. We are both Christians and non-smokers, non-drinkers and no drug use. We need help with front yard shrubs being cut/trim down so that the mail person can get up my stairs. Also, a washer and dryer front loader (not working removed, and my wall repaired going in our bedroom and the ceiling fan has fallen down in another bedroom the light do not come on. Our home is so embarrassing, it is not dirty but it has a lot of clutter in the basement. The gutters need to be cleaned out, and the hot water tank piping repair. We appreciate any help, because my husband when he was a young man made bad decisions before coming to know Jesus as Lord. Nor is employment available because of his obesity. As a result we cannot live in subsidized housing.

  12. Got landbank house and bricks were completely missing on back and side of house it was visible when purchased I dont know what to do I dont have money to replace bricks from they estimates I was told HELP

  13. I have a house from Detroit Land Bank
    And it’s a shame that the City of Detroit doesn’t have a program to assist with whatever is needed to make your house
    Into a home, Considering those houses have been vacant and deliberating for years
    The house I purchased needs everything
    To Make a home . The Systemic Oppression is real yet instill it’s a vicious cycle of keeping down low-moderate income people. Everything needs to change for the
    Welfare of the next generation .

  14. Hello, how do I apply for assistance with water leakage from inside/outside foundation & roofing repairs. Are there any grant assistance programs available?

  15. I am a retired homeowner. My father’s was saved for me by the UCHC program. Thank God! But, my father was 92 years old when he passed away and was long unable to do the repairs in his home due age and health issues. I am struggling to get help with repairs and making property safe to live in. We have had issues with flooding in basement, molding, mildew, foundation issues and renovation needed. When they came out to replace my hot water heater. The gentleman stated that the tiles coming up from the basement floors were probably asbestos. The home also has plumbing issues, a huge electrical problem and also need new roofing. Please is someone could look into my case and get back with me @ (313)623-3477 It would be greatly Appreciated! Thank you in advance!!

  16. I am a 62 year old man with a bad neck, low income and need my outside wall replaced. Where do I find a grant to get it fixed, if I don’t get it fixed soon it with fall in and I will be homeless with my 70 year old girlfriend. Please I need help.

  17. Hello, I am a 67 year old homeowner in need of a roof on my home. I have roofing tiles missing, two major leaks coming from the roof’s condition, holes in the roof that expose the interior, and last but certainly not the least a major hole in my living room ceiling from the leak from the front of the roof. My hope is that I can get any type of assistance with the roofing problems that plague me. I am putting it out into the universe and praying it works out. Thanks…

  18. Hello, I’m a 61 year old retired homeowner in the City of Detroit, in need of repairs to electrical system, plumbing, walls, ceilings, porch and exterior doors. I have recently applied for financing for windows, roofing, gutters, furnace and some plumbing but I’m unable to qualify for additional funding because of my income. My home was left to me when my parents died and I’ve struggled to keep it together. Please advise me of how I can qualify for a grant or some type of assistance with my home to complete my plumbing repairs (leaky pipes) and most importantly the electrical as some plugs don’t work, some switches don’t work properly or at all. Please help me.

  19. Hello I’m a 52 year old Grandmother who have physical and mental issues and need home repairs so Bad!! My roof is way pass due for being replaced the structure of my home is Barely hanging on the Basement foundation is very poor the drainage system is Gone,I pay taxes and can’t get any assistance I have applied for Everything and still Nothing My Health has been at risk many times because of bronchitis and will get worse if I Don’t get assistance soon I’m on SSI and SSD but it’s Not Enough for a Roof What can I do to get the Help needed?

  20. I need quick help.and service on my home to repair my basement and kitchen and look into getting a tree removal from backyard disabled with no income at the moment please I need help Janie Moore 313-597-2564

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