$20M Detroit Home Repair Fund to assist low-income homeowners

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Detroit — The Gilbert Family Foundation alongside healthcare system ProMedica and DTE Energy on Tuesday announced a $20 million fund that is anticipated to help more than 1,000 Detroit homeowners over the next three years.

The Detroit Home Repair Fund will build capacity for nonprofits to provide low-income homeowners in the city with critical home repairs. There's no minimum or maximum amount that can be spent on each home.

Jennifer Gilbert, co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation, said the foundation is committing $10 million to start the initiative because they've heard the calls from homeworkers in need of assistance.

Jennifer Gilbert, co-founder of the Gilbert Family Foundation, shown on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Detroit said the foundation is committing $10 million to start an initiative to repair the homes of low-income Detroiters because they've heard the calls from homeworkers in need of assistance.

The program builds off the Detroit Tax Relief Fund, also created by the Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Community Fund, to eliminate remaining delinquent property taxes for Detroit homeowners who have been approved for the Homeowners Property Exemption and the Pay As You Stay programs.

"We have stayed in contact with the homeowners who benefited from the property tax assistance and the first thing they consistently articulate is for home repair resources. We heard that need," Gilbert said. "The Home Repair Fund will increase access to home repair resources and simplifies the process of distributing these dollars."

It will work in tandem with DTE's Energy Efficiency Assistance program to identify eligible homeowners with an income at or below 200% of the federal poverty line, or about $55,000 for a family of four, who have applied for the 2022 HOPE program. Residents can call (313) 306-2082 to inquire.

Repairs will be made to roofs, foundations, stairs, windows, drywall, water heaters and more, said Trevor Lauer, president and COO of DTE Electric. He added other repairs including flood damage are eligible to activate other grants available.

The fund braids together existing city programs and provides assistance through other nonprofits including the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency, United Community Housing Coalition, Eastside Community Network, EcoWorks, Matrix Human Services and CLEARCorps Detroit.

The nonprofits will complete inspections of the home and obtain the funding needed to complete the repairs. They will also oversee all contractors, conducting post-inspections and monitoring compliance.

Loretta Powell, a resident of Detroit's Good Stock community since 1967 and preschool teacher in the city, said she previously canvassed her neighborhood to connect residents to resources that prevent property tax foreclosure. Last year, she applied for DTE's Energy Efficiency Assistance program and received a new water heater and furnace for her home, but said there's still more to be done.

"I need new windows and a deck to replace the old ones," she said. "The program helped make my home safer for me to live in. While volunteering in my community, I noticed how many homes desperately needed repair. Some, I even left applications on the porch when it was too dangerous for me to walk up."

The fund expects to start helping Detroiters on a first-come-first-serve basis this summer.

A 2020 report by the University of Michigan’s Poverty Solutions found that approximately 8,500 owner-occupied homes in Detroit are "inadequate or severely inadequate."

"Some estimate the need for repair funds in the city of Detroit to be as high as $4 billion. So clearly, none of us can do this alone," said Laura Grannemann, executive director of the Gilbert Family Foundation. "Today, we're here to start a new narrative that's driving systemic change. Not only are we providing you home repair resources into a complex system, but we're also simplifying that system so it's easier to access home repair resources. We've made a huge step towards that 8,500 goal and we're just getting started."

Mayor Mike Duggan said it was almost eight years ago when Dan Gilbert led the city's blight task force, providing the data needed to determine which houses had to be demolished and which could be saved. Since then, more than 20,000 homes have been demolished, he said. The city is using $30 million it received through President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan to pay for 1,000 roof repairs beginning this summer, he said.

"What we found was when you took the burned houses out of the block, people would move into the other houses and fix them up," he said. "You can see how this is going to work together. There's no way DTE can do energy efficiency and replace windows when there's a hole in the roof, right?"

(L to R) )Kate Sommerfeld, Ruth Ann Norton, Laura Grannemann, Priscilla Almodovar, and Trevor Laurer speak on the The Detroit Home Repair Fund Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday May 3rd 2022.

Last March, the Gilberts unveiled plans to invest $500 million in Detroit neighborhoods over the next decade.

Kate Sommerfeld, ProMedica's president of social determinants of health, said the Toledo-based company has been on a journey to remodel health care as a core delivery mechanism. The nonprofit health care system has locations in northwest Ohio and southeast Michigan.

She noted that between 40% to 60% of health is determined by non-clinical factors, things that happen outside the doctor's offices, in the neighborhoods and homes where residents live.

"We're now also screening for housing, really fundamentally changing the way that we deliver care," she said.

Priscilla Almodovar, president and CEO of Enterprise Community Partners, said they'll help upgrade Detroit homes to raise home values and help build equity for homeowners, "that crucial step in closing the racial wealth gap here in America."

"Far too many families in Detroit struggle to afford repairs and they face the very real prospect of having to leave the very places where they built their families and lives," Almodovar said. "This program will help Detroiters stay in their homes and build wealth for the next generation."


Twitter: @SarahRahal_