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The Quicken Loans Community Fund hosted a celebration recently for Detroiters who, through the Make It Home program, were able to purchase the homes they had previously rented, saving them from the tax foreclosure process. Additionally, the program provides a helping hand to former homeowners who lost their properties to tax foreclosure despite being eligible for property tax exemption. Today’s event marks the awarding of more than 220 deeds to the initiative’s latest participants, in addition to the more than 60 that received theirs last year.

The Make It Home program was piloted in 2017 after the Quicken Loans Community Fund, the United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC) and 35 other community organizations undertook the Neighbor to Neighbor program, an unprecedented campaign to reach out to all Detroit residents in tax delinquency. Through Neighbor to Neighbor, community organizations knocked on more than 60,000 doors, and as a result, the group identified renters as a particularly vulnerable population in the tax foreclosure crisis.

Despite making monthly payments, many Detroit renters are unaware that their landlord isn’t paying their property taxes or that their property is in imminent danger of tax foreclosure. To keep these renters in their homes, the Quicken Loans Community Fund, City of Detroit and UCHC identified a creative solution to change the lives of these Detroit residents: Make It Home.

Over the last two years, the Quicken Loans Community Fund has provided $1.3 million in grant funding to UCHC. Because of this investment, the City of Detroit was able to purchase a combined 580 homes out of the Wayne County tax foreclosure auction process and transfer the properties to UCHC. Through the program, UCHC then worked with each renter or owner-occupant to sell them the property for prices ranging between $2,000 and $6,000. Additionally, all payments from Make It Home participants are kept by UCHC in order to expand the program in future years.

“As the nation’s largest mortgage lender, Quicken Loans understands the value of homeownership and the stability and pride that it brings to a family and a community,” says Bill Emerson, vice chairman of Quicken Loans. “The Make It Home program is a vital tool for both the city and the community, as we all work together, with incredible partners like UCHC, to make sure the needs of our neighbors in Detroit are met with creative and supportive programs.”

As Make It Home evolved from an idea to full-scale initiative, the City of Detroit was active in its implementation and committed to its success by exercising their right of first refusal, so that they could further provide housing stability in Detroit.

“Today, through the work of our community partners and the many volunteers going door to door, we have helped 300 residents not only prevent foreclosure, but move from renting to becoming homeowners, who now hold equity in their neighborhood,” says Mayor Mike Duggan. “As Detroit comes back, we need to do everything in our power to retain residents and keep them in their homes.”

The United Community Housing Coalition, a nonprofit organization which provides comprehensive housing assistance to Detroit’s low-income residents, has worked to preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income Detroiters since 1973.

“Prior to this partnership, the only tool we had available in these situations was the tax auction, which only provided further uncertainty to the occupants of the home,” says Ted Phillips, executive director of UCHC. “Now, we are able to obtain the homes from the city, administer an affordable payment plan and provide deeds to these homes free and clear. The joy of homeownership and the freedom from anxiety over tax foreclosure would only be possible through our combined efforts with the city and the Quicken Loans Community Fund’s generous grant and support.”

The pilot of Make It Home launched in 2017. Since that time, 63 participants from the pilot program have completed payments and become homeowners. In 2018, the initiative added an additional 500 participants, with more than 220 of the participants already completing their payment plans and receiving the deed to their home, with many more on their way.

Rachel Wilson-Sims of Detroit had been living in her home with her husband and two daughters for less than a year when the yellow bags began showing up on her front door, indicating her home was going into tax foreclosure. Thanks to her participation in Make It Home in 2018, her home was purchased by the city and transferred to UCHC. She entered into a payment plan, completed it, and received the deed to her home in February of this year.

“I thought there was no hope; I thought we were going to have to move again. Thanks to Make It Home, if the landlord doesn’t pay the taxes, you can stay in the home you’ve been in,” Wilson-Sims says. “This program gives hope to people all across Detroit. I always wanted to buy a house so that my children can have something when I’m gone. Everything I do is for them.”

In addition to delivering deeds to the new homeowners, the Quicken Loans Community Fund announced a $300,000 investment into UCHC to provide grants and interest-free loans for Make It Home participants to make repairs to their properties.

“Once the immediate challenge of tax foreclosure is overcome, many Make It Home participants are eager to renovate and improve the homes they now own. These grants and interest-free loans will address issues that were caused by their landlord’s lack of investment in the property, offer new homeowners a way to build credit and create a safe environment for families to build their future,” Emerson adds.

New homeowners can apply through UCHC and are eligible for up to $10,000 in funding. The first $5,000 will be administered as a repair grant, and homeowners can seek an additional $5,000 in the form of a zero-interest repair loan.

The Quicken Loans Community Fund strives to develop a resilient Detroit housing market that is accessible, builds wealth for residents and meets the needs of neighborhoods. The Neighbor to Neighbor program, Make It Home initiative and various other efforts, including Rehabbed and ready, are just a few of the Quicken Loans Community Fund’s housing stability investments. 

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