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Duggan announces $30M in home repairs available for elderly, disabled Detroiters

Hani Barghouthi
The Detroit News

Detroit — Older and disabled homeowners in Detroit have access to millions of dollars in repairs to their houses, Mayor Mike Duggan announced as part of a federal and local partnership. 

Renew Detroit, an initiative funded by President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act kicks off Friday with $30 million slated to perform home repairs for Detroiters aged 62 and above as well as disabled residents.

"We have watched literally hundreds of thousands of Detroiters move out of the city in the last 20 or 25 years," Duggan said Thursday during a press conference to announce the initiative. "We wanted to prioritize the homeowners who stayed, and reward them for doing that."

This will be the first project to use some of the $826 million promised to Detroit in federal recovery funds, the spending plan for which City Council approved in late June

"We're going to triple the amount of money that is going to low-income homeowners in the city of Detroit to repair their homes," said Duggan. "This is going to raise the housing stock, and raise neighborhood values all across the city."

Roof replacements, which Duggan said make up 80% of all senior home repair requests, will be a priority and the focus of the first phase of the plan. The goal is to repair 1,000 roofs on Detroit homes within the first two years, starting in the spring of next year. 

The city will begin accepting applications at 9 a.m. on Friday and continue through the end of the month. Applications can be filled out online or via phone during business hours at (313) 244-0274.

In order to be eligible, homeowners must meet the following criteria:

  • Age 62 or older, or of any age with a disability
  • Approved for a property tax exemption through the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP), recently re-named the Homeowner Property Exemption (HOPE).
  • Have not received a home repair grant from the city of $10,000 or more in the past 10 years.

Duggan announced details about HOPE, which provides property tax relief of 25%, 50% or 100% to eligible lower-income homeowners, adding that 12,000 Detroiters are currently exempted under the program. 

"The whole program... will reduce and ultimately eliminate your back taxes because of the assistance from the Rocket Community Fund and the Dan Gilbert foundation," the mayor said.

Residents who wish to apply for Renew Detroit but have not yet been approved for HOPE can still apply for the latter before Nov. 12, reassured Duggan. 

"A large number of our homeowners with this poverty exemption are people who lived in the city, worked in the city, paid off their house years ago and are living on Social Security now," Duggan said. "(They) are at risk of not being able to pay their property taxes and maybe lose their house." 

Duggan said 1,000 residents would be notified in the coming months whether their home was chosen for phase one after applications for Renew Detroit roof replacement close on Oct. 31.

The decision will be made based on a point system that prioritizes people who have owned their homes the longest and have the largest number of people in the household, while also taking into consideration the level of their HOPE tax exemption and whether they already are on a list for similar repairs with Wayne Metro or the city’s Senior Emergency Home Repair program. 

"We want to secure the houses that have lots of kids," said Duggan. "We have not done enough in the city to protect our kids."

One of the goals of the Renew Detroit program is to reduce the size of the waitlist, currently nearly 2,000 residents, for the SEHR program. Residents can be on the list for years before getting assistance. 

Residents on the waiting list are encouraged to apply for the Renew Detroit Program.  Residents who apply for Renew Detroit will keep their place in line under the old list. If they are selected for a Renew Detroit repair, the homeowner can decide which program is best for them. 

Phase two of Renew Detroit, expected to launch a year from October, is expected to provide repairs to another 500 homes. Historically, Detroit has funded between 200 and 250 annual home repairs through its Community Development Block Grant-funded senior emergency home repair program. 

The new funding will bring the total number of homes up to around 750. 

“As we continue to support Detroiters across the city to build stable homeownership, we have seen the magnitude of need for robust repair programs that address critical issues and provide peace of mind for homeowners,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund, which is donating the costs of a call center and hotline for the program. 

The hotline will provide residents the opportunity to speak with a representative to determine their eligibility and participate in the new initiative. 

Duggan said the city also hoped to hire Detroit-based contractors to perform the planned repairs and would announce a series of outreach events to engage local contractors.