Detroit to boost low-income housing with $250M fund

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Detroit — City officials have rolled out a plan to create a $250 million fund that would allow them to preserve 10,000 affordable housing units and develop 2,000 more in the next five years.

The Affordable Housing Leverage Fund would include $50 million in grant funds, $150 million in low-interest borrowing and $50 million in public money the city expects to receive in federal and city funds for affordable housing.

“The preservation and creation of affordable housing is the cornerstone of our growth strategy,” said Mayor Mike Duggan, who first announced the multifamily affordable housing plan during his state of the city speech last week.

“Affordable housing offers stability for the city’s low-income residents and provides options to households at a range of incomes in all neighborhoods. This is what we are talking about when we say that we are building one city for all of us.”

Arthur Jamison, left, director of Housing & Revitalization, and resident Stella Buchanan stand in front of Industrial Senior Apartments in Detroit on Monday.

The initiative is also part of Duggan’s goal of rewarding Detroiters who stayed in the city despite tough economic times in the last decade.

The plan will expand the city’s existing programs that have so far preserved 1,772 affordable housing units and developed 852 units since 2015.

Officials are targeting homes for preservation that are at risk due to expiring low-income housing tax credits and deteriorating conditions.

Part of the plan calls for the city to prioritize 3,500 existing units that are most at-risk.

“Preservation, maintaining the affordability of an existing unit over time, is critical to retaining the city’s existing population and ensuring future affordable housing options for all Detroiters,” the city said in a release.

Stella Buchanan, 60, is among the residents who will benefit from the preservation of affordable housing.

Buchanan, who Duggan introduced during his speech last week, said she feared she would be forced out of her unit at Industrial Senior Apartments downtown because of expiring HUD tax credits. However, the city is now stepping in to preserve every unit in her building.

“This is going to make me happy,” Buchanan said Monday outside of her apartment building on Washington Boulevard. “Downtown should be for everybody. We all should be able to afford to live in downtown Detroit.”

Housing and development officials will team up to identify vacant city-owned parcels for new units and existing units for rehabilitation in designated neighborhoods.

Arthur Jemison, director of Housing & Revitalization, said Monday the 10,000 units slated for preservation are in neighborhoods across the city. The 2,000 new units will be in targeted multifamily housing areas which include neighborhoods near the Grosse Pointe and Eastpointe borders and near Palmer Park.

“You can’t grow the city if you lose people,” Jemison said. “Especially people like Stella (Buchanan) who have been here for a long time. If we aren’t letting Detroiters stay in units that allow them to pay reasonable rents and are well managed and operated ... that’s fundamental to our job, it’s fundamental to growing the city.”

The housing plan reflects Detroit’s vision for more mixed-income neighborhoods, according to the city.

“We have had a chance to observe and speak with leaders from Washington (D.C.), Chicago and San Francisco and learned how they have had to make major investments in affordable housing after the real estate market grew and missed some opportunities to include affordability in their revitalization,” said Arthur Jemison, director of Housing & Revitalization.

“With a strategy and fund of this kind, we hope to learn from their efforts and invest in affordable housing now.”

Last year, city council passed an “inclusionary housing” ordinance, proposed by Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, that requires developers to set aside a certain percentage of affordable residential housing units for low- and moderate-income residents.

The move, Sheffield said, helps ensure all Detroiters can take part in the city’s recovery.