The Rocket Community Fund, the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), and officials from the city of Detroit, have announced that 239 Detroit families will become homeowners through the Make It Home program this year, bringing the program’s total to 1,396 families that have avoided tax foreclosure-related displacement since the program’s launch in 2017.
“Having access to stable and affordable housing is a right, not a privilege. Five years ago, we started the Make It Home program with 80 participants, and today we have built a force for creating homeownership and generational wealth,” says Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund.
“Stable housing is just the beginning. We are staying connected with Make It Home families to provide additional wraparound support. The number one need that families identify is home repair resources. As a result, we are thrilled to dedicate an additional $1.5 million to support grants and 0 percent interest loans for these new homeowners.”
Make It Home assists eligible Detroiters that occupy tax-foreclosed houses to become homeowners instead of risking eviction. The program leverages the city of Detroit’s “right of refusal,” allowing the city to purchase properties before the tax foreclosure auction for the value of the back taxes owed.
These properties are then sold to the UCHC using philanthropic funding from the Rocket Community Fund. The UCHC works with each resident over the course of about a year for make them the owner of the property. Residents pay an average of less than $10,000 to become a homeowner through this program.
One of the 239 households benefiting from the program this year is that of Barbara Sledge. She had lived in her Eden Gardens neighborhood home for four years. She paid her rent on time and even fixed up her home, but she was still at risk of being evicted when her landlord lost the home due to nonpayment of taxes. Instead, thanks to Make It Home, she will become a homeowner for the first time at age 52.
“Make It Home took a lot of stress off me because I wanted to stay in Detroit and didn’t want to lose my home. I always treated this home like mine, and I’m glad I can finally call it mine,” says Sledge. “The entire experience of dealing with this program and the partners, has been fantastic. I’m looking forward to eventually passing this home down to my children one day and continuing to thrive and support my neighborhood. I’m even the captain of my block club.”
UCHC, a Detroit nonprofit that provides comprehensive housing assistance to low-income residents, has worked to preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income Detroiters since 1973.
In addition to administering the Make It Home program, UCHC helps thousands of families each year to retain homeownership through workshops on city programs that help Detroiters stay in their homes, such as Homeowner Property Exemption (HOPE), Pay As You Stay (PAYS), and the Gilbert Family Foundation-funded Detroit Tax Relief Fund.
“Make It Home proves the ability of low-income Detroiters, with a little help, to become homeowners,” says Ted Phillips, executive director of the UCHC. “Fully repaid zero interest loans from these buyers has enabled the program to continue to create more homeowners and help stabilize more communities.”
In 2022 eligible residents are able to participate in the Make It Home repair program. The repair program was created in 2019 to ensure the stability of Make It Home participants who were often experiencing the negative consequences of deferred maintenance.
Through grants and low-interest loans, UCHC helps residents address home health and habitability home repairs. Since the launch of the Make It Home Repair program, 1,025 repairs have been completed in more than 322 homes.
A recent study by the University of Michigan Poverty Solutions identified that 92 percent of residents who benefited from home repair services reported that the Make It Home repair program improved the safety of their housing and stability of their homeownership, indicating that home repairs are essential for building and sustaining low-income homeownership. The program gave homeowners streamlined access to repair funds that would likely have been unavailable through existing sources.
The program utilizes a revolving loan fund design as well as grant support to sustain. This means that as residents pay into their purchase price, that money goes directly to help participants in future Make It Home cohorts.
Of all funding loaned out since Make It Home began in 2017, 99 percent has been replenished back into the revolving loan fund as of October 2022. As interest in the program has increased demand for participation, we have seen cohorts grow over time.
However, moratorium on tax foreclosures in 2020 and 2021 resulted in little to no eligible properties for Make It Home for two years. A partial moratorium in 2022 meant many residents prepared to participate in Make It Home in 2022 were no longer eligible, because their home did not foreclose. This resulted in a smaller cohort in 2022 than was seen in 2019, the last year this program was formally run.
2017: 80 properties entered Make It Home
2018: 519 properties entered Make It Home
2019: 557 properties entered Make It Home
2020: No properties because of the property tax auction pause due to COVID
2021: 3 properties entered Make It Home
“With more than 200 District 7 families enrolled and becoming homeowners, I am proud to support Make It Home, helping ensuring Detroit families won’t be displaced and creating generational wealth,” says Fred Durhal, Detroit city councilman. “This is an essential program for strengthening and stabilizing our neighborhoods, not just in District 7 but across the city.”