City of Detroit Teams with Partners to Preserve and Enhance Affordable, Quality Housing

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD), and six other organizations announced today that they have formed a new Preservation Partnership to identify apartment buildings that have low rents and help them be redeveloped in a way that preserves affordability and prevents displacement.
Detroit has announced a Preservation Partnership to redevelop apartments in the city while preserving affordable housing. // Stock photo

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, the city’s Housing and Revitalization Department (HRD), and six other organizations announced today that they have formed a new Preservation Partnership to identify apartment buildings that have low rents and help them be redeveloped in a way that preserves affordability and prevents displacement.

As part of its Multifamily Affordable Housing Strategy, HRD has established a goal of preserving 10,000 existing regulated affordable housing units in the city by 2023.

The goal is in addition to the creation of new affordable housing in any new development that receives city funding or discounted land. Beyond that, there are thousands more low-income units that are not regulated and at risk of being gentrified, if the city does not intervene, Detroit officials say.

“The revitalization taking place across our city is putting pressure on rent costs at buildings that have no requirement to provide affordable housing’” says Duggan. “We are going to proactively engage these building owners and offer them help with redevelopment of their properties in exchange for a commitment to keep the rents affordable for years to come, so Detroiters who stayed don’t have to live in fear of being pushed out.”

HRD formed the Preservation Partnership team to lead a multi-year initiative to maintain affordable housing, either through the renewal of expiring affordability commitments or the coordination of new or restructured financing. For many of these units, this will also involve significant renovations to improve the quality of that affordable housing.

The announcement was made at Conner Creek Senior Apartments, run by American Community Developers, one of the largest providers of affordable housing in the city. ACD took over the property in 2019 and immediately extended its affordability commitment through 2042 and expanded the number of guaranteed affordable units, setting an example that the partnership hopes to replicate again and again.

The Preservation Partnership brings together organizations with a diverse range of expertise and experience to accomplish the team’s wide-ranging goals:

  • Enterprise Community Partners, which will lead the team and create and implement action plans for the preservation of affordable housing in the city.
  • United Community Housing Coalition, a Detroit-based nonprofit that will engage residents and provide key local knowledge and guidance on tenant-retention strategies.
  • A partnership between Cinnaire and CHN Housing Partners, which will develop a lease-purchase program and provide a free technical assistance program for developers to enhance their capacity for preservation of projects within their portfolios.
  • Data Driven Detroit will build and manage a database of affordable housing, which will also track when tax credits and agreements are expiring, in order to help proactively preserve units as affordable.
  • Elevate Energy will perform energy assessments and recommend energy-efficiency improvements that will improve a building’s financial sustainability. Cheaper utilities and operation costs will benefit both property owners and
  • Community Investment Corp., a national leader on naturally occurring affordable housing (NOAH) preservation strategies.

“Everyone deserves an affordable, safe place to call home,” says Melinda Clemons, vice president and Detroit market leader for Enterprise Community Partners. “Through this partnership, the team will help thousands of Detroiters stay in their homes and ensure that those homes remain affordable for years to come.”

Another challenge facing Detroit is that a number of affordable or low-income properties are in need of repairs or upgrades, either for health and safety or because of physical obsolescence. The Preservation Partnership team will tackle this issue, as well.

“The Preservation Partnership underscores the city’s commitment to making sure that all Detroiters have access to not only affordable places to live, but safe and quality ones, too,” says Donald Rencher, director of the HRD. “By tackling a number of issues regarding affordability in our city all at once, and by bringing this incredible team together, we will make Detroit a better place for more people to call home.”

As part of the effort, the Preservation Partnership team will identify at-risk properties and develop and implement action plans that will ensure the properties are able to retain quality affordable units in the long term. The work will be supported by policy interventions and efforts to streamline coordination among stakeholders.

“The Preservation Partnership is the realization of a longtime vision of bringing experts from a variety of fields together to launch an all-encompassing approach to preserving affordable housing in the city of Detroit and keeping Detroiters in their homes,” says Julie Schneider, the deputy director of HRD who led the effort to create the partnership. “This is an initiative that has been so close to my heart given the incredible importance that we preserve not only affordable housing, but a Detroit for everyone.”

Additionally, preservation work will dovetail with the Affordable Housing Leverage Fund (AHLF), which the city launched to increase the amount of capital available to invest in affordable housing and increase the frequency of funding availability to improve the pace of affordable housing development and preservation. Action plans developed by the partnership team will create a pipeline of projects that can be served by AHLF financing.

Detroit-based United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) will be engaging tenants to be sure that plans for preservation are informed by resident needs and concerns.

“Navigating housing affordability and government programs can be confusing and frustrating, especially for residents,” says Claudia Sanford, director of tenant housing for UCHC. “UCHC will ensure that the decisions and recommendations that the partnership makes will have the greatest impact and do the most good in the community by ensuring that Detroiters’ needs are addressed.”

Finally, as part of the larger preservation work, CHN Housing Partners and Cinnaire are partnering to develop and deliver a unique lease-purchase program for residents in single-family rental units developed as part of the LIHTC program. Eligible renters will be supported in becoming first-time homebuyers through a number of program components, including down-payment assistance and pre- and post-purchase counseling. In addition to preserving affordability, this program builds equity for low-income residents, improving the quality of single-family housing stock, and stabilizing neighborhoods.

“This program ensures homeownership opportunities become a reality for the many often left out of a primary way to build wealth in this country,” says Lucius Vassar, senior vice president, Detroit Market Leader for Cinnaire.  “Homeownership sets the stage for economic security for low-income families to secure lasting stability through investment in one’s self, home, and community.”