Make It Home gets money to expand, help Detroiters purchase houses

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

Detroit — A program aimed at helping Detroit residents at risk of foreclosure stay in their homes announced it is getting more money to expand. 

Officials with Quicken Loans Community Fund said Thursday that it's boosting its contribution for the Make It Home program by $700,000 to more than $2.5 million. The money will go toward the expansion of a home repair fund for participants. 

United Way for Southeastern Michigan also said it is dedicating $100,000.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan was with Roshona Kennedy on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020 as the 40-year-old Detroiter received the deed to her grandparents' house that she almost lost to tax foreclosure.

Over the last three years, the program has helped 1,157 families, both renters and low-income homeowners, purchase their foreclosed homes for a fraction of the property's delinquent back taxes.

“Who better to buy it but the person who already lives there,” said Michele Oberholtzer, director of Tax Foreclosure Prevention with the United Community Housing Coalition. “Every neighborhood in Detroit is made stronger because of this program.”

Make It Home is a partnership between the city, United Community Housing Coalition, Quicken Loans Community Fund and other groups, including the DTE Foundation and the Hudson Webber Foundation.

It launched in 2017 to purchase properties landlords had lost to tax foreclosure and sell them to renters.

Mayor Mike Duggan said Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert first pitched the idea to him. Detroit has first rights to purchasing tax-foreclosed properties from the Wayne County treasurer before they are offered at auction. It then sells them back to occupants from between $1,000 to $10,700.

“I thought it had potential, but 1,100 houses in this city that would be vacant today were it not for this program is remarkable,” Duggan said.

It was it was expanded in 2018 as part of a lawsuit settlement between the city and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. 

The city agreed to contribute $275,000 toward purchasing and selling back foreclosed homes to low-income homeowners who would have qualified for the tax break that exempts them from property taxes

Detroiter Roshona Kennedy, 40, was overcome with emotion when she took the podium at Thursday's press conference announcing the increase in funding. She was able to get the deed to her family home Thursday after participating in the program. 

“I couldn’t lose my grandparents’ home,” Kennedy said. “They worked so hard.”

“There are four generations in this house … nothing but love and family.”

Foreclosures have dramatically dropped since a high of nearly 25,000 city properties in 2015. But many homeowners on payment plans still are struggling. 

Nearly one in four Detroit homeowners owes more in delinquent property taxes as of fall 2019 than they did three years prior, despite being part of low-interest plans designed to help them get out of debt and avoid foreclosure, according to a The Detroit News investigation.