HUD secretary touts Biden agenda at senior complexes in Detroit

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit —  U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge while promoting President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda in the city Monday, assured seniors "it's a new day in this country" and "we are going to do great things."

Fudge, in her first visit to Detroit as the nation's 18th HUD secretary, was joined by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist and Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan on one of three planned city stops to senior housing complexes.

The group toured the newly redeveloped Thome Rivertown complex, then the Delta Manor near Eastern Market and Fudge plans to conclude with a visit to Clement Kern Gardens in Corktown.

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge gives remarks during a press conference at Delta Manor senior apartments. Fudge is touting President Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" agenda a day ahead of Biden's planned visit to Metro Detroit. October 4, 2021, Detroit, MI, (Clarence Tabb, Jr./The Detroit News)

"We have a president who cares not only just in his head, but in his heart," Fudge said outside Delta Manor. "We have senators who are willing to do their part and I promise you, they will find a way to get done what needs to get done."

Fudge's site visits in Detroit come a day ahead of Biden's planned trip to Howell to tout his bipartisan infrastructure plan as "Build Back Better" is being debated in Congress. 

The fate of the two packages crucial to enacting his agenda — the $3.5 trillion social spending bill supported by most Democrats and the more modest infrastructure bill supported by a bipartisan group — has been in limbo as leaders debate how to move forward.

Fudge on Monday spent time with senior residents and members of her sorority Delta Sigma Theta, which founded the Delta Manor nearly 35 years ago. The seven-story high rise became the first national senior affordable living complex sponsored by a sorority. The group's President Barbra Anderson said it provides "seniors a safe place they can call home."

Duggan briefly attended the tour of Delta Manor, welcoming Fudge and saying she has been a "voice for change."

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia L. Fudge, (c, glasses on), with U.S. Senator Gary Peters,(l), during a tour at Delta Manor in Detroit. The senior housing complex is one of three planned stops for Fudge Monday ahead of President Joe Biden's Tuesday trip to Michigan to promote his "Build Back Better" agenda.

"There's plenty of room in the city for everyone and no one will be pushed out," said Duggan, adding when affordable housing units with low-income subsides expire in the city, they are renewed and even more are being built. 

"We've said that of any new development, at least 20% of units have to be affordable and you're going to see this more and more," said Duggan who is running for a third term as Mayor on Nov. 2. 

Gilchrist said the state will be using $100 million of its American Rescue Plan funds towards HUD's Housing Trust Fund, to build and preserve housing for the low-income, and bring an additional $380 million in investments from contractors "to make housing more affordable in the state of Michigan."

"Housing is healthcare. It's an issue of justice because all of us have a right to live with dignity," Gilchrist said.

At Thome Rivertown complex, the officials toured PACE, (Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly) a Medicare and Medicaid program run by Henry Ford Health System and visited the apartments operated by nonprofit Presbyterian Villages of Michigan.

While in Corktown, Fudge will tour the 87-unit Clement Kern Gardens which is going to be replaced with more than 800 units of mixed-income housing. HUD awarded $30 million for the project through its Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant in May. The redevelopment will include 151 replacement units, 489 moderate-income units, and 201 market rate and homeownership units, according to the HUD.

Peters and Stabenow during the Monday tour touted funding that is "making meaningful long-term change," Peters said. 

Stabenow noted more than $600 million has come to Michigan through the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, $243 million in homeowner assistance funding and $156 million in homelessness grants.

"But we know we have so much more to do and we have just begun to focus on quality affordable housing and all that comes with it, in particular seniors," Stabenow said. "It is healthcare, it is about food assistance and it is about quality of life."

In February, The Detroit News in partnership with Bridge Magazine and the New York & Michigan Solutions Journalism Collaborative reported a long-time shortage of home health care workers has exploded into a crisis in Michigan amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

"Seniors are very important and we need more and more of this quality of living, especially for our Detroiters," said Kern Tomlin, 79, who chairs the board of the Village of St. Martha's apartments. "Many seniors join in facilities at the age of 62 and there are so many things they need and will need as more of our population becomes seniors."

Twitter: @SarahRahal_