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EDITORIAL

Editorial: Detroit Land Bank plan to help neighborhoods

The Detroit News

Detroit’s Land Bank has about 4,500 pieces of property that could become homes for those who want to live in the city, or better homes for those already living in them. A pilot program to make these houses viable could help stabilize some of the city’s neighborhoods.

The idea is to give residents who are still physically in the homes a new shot at regaining ownership. Some used to own the properties but lost them in tax foreclosures; others were renting and were victimized by unscrupulous landlords who took their rent but didn’t pay the taxes.

The pilot program will allow residents to buy the home for a $1,000 purchase price, make $100 a month payments for a year to cover the property taxes and stay current on their water bills. It is very low threshold for home ownership.

And it comes with help to stay in the homes. New owners will have to go through a home buyer counseling course and maintain the exterior of the properties. If they comply, the occupants will be given the deed to the property.

Craig Fahle, land bank spokesman, says the idea is to get people into the habit of budgeting and paying taxes.

He says the program has sold houses to four occupants. About 200 others have contacted them about buying the homes they currently occupy.

“We’ll see how it goes over the next few months,” Fahle says. “I think it will work for the people who are going to be in the program.”

Applicants are being screened for the financial ability to make not only the initial payments but maintain control of the property by paying taxes and their water bills, as well as maintenance.

It’s open to former owners and occupants of homes who have lost them or been evicted with the past 12 months.

“If this converts a bunch of renters into home owners — great!” Fahle says. “There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Pushing people out of homes they lost through tax foreclosure or ousting tenants whose landlords were scofflaws won’t serve to revive Detroit’s struggling neighborhoods.

This pilot program seems to be an innovative way to keep occupied homes from becoming blighted and abandoned.

It should also instill in the new owners a renewed sense of community. It could become a very effective tool in keeping Detroiters in Detroit homes.