Home repair program for low income Detroiters opens Oct. 1

The second round of a city home repair program, slated to help 1,000 Detroiters with window or roof work, kicks off Saturday and runs through the end of October.

The Renew Detroit program, funded by $45 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars, covers home repairs for 2,000 low-income seniors and Detroiters with disabilities.

“If your roof is already secure, but the air is blowing in your windows, we’ll redo it and put in a first-class window system,” Mayor Mike Duggan said Friday at a news conference on the city’s east side where roof repair had begun earlier in the day.

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Construction for the first phase of the program, which includes 1,000 residents, began last week. Detroit City Council over the summer approved $2.9 million in contracts for the first 200 homes and those are expected to be done by this fall. That roof replacement work will continue through 2023 and 2024.

Among the first recipients is Detroiter Samela Dean.

She has lived in her home for 16 years. For three years, she has dealt with a leaky roof. Rain and snow would get into the home and Dean would have to use buckets and towels. The plaster from her ceiling would fall.

“A roof costs a lot and I try to save but then something happens, and saving $20,000 is a lot when you only get Social Security,” Dean, 60, said Friday in front of her home on Maine Street, north of Davison.

She applied last year for the Renew Detroit program and heard back that she’d been approved in August.

“I am so excited to have a roof and so emotional because I never, ever dreamed this could happen to me,” she said.

The second round will take applications starting Saturday through Oct. 31.

To be eligible, homeowners must be a senior, 62 or older, or a homeowner with disabilities of any age; they must be approved for a 2022 property tax exemption through the Homeowner Property Exemption (HOPE) program, and they must not have received a city home repair grant of $10,000 or more in the last decade.

Homeowners will then be selected based on how long they have owned the home, the number of people in it and the level of their HOPE tax exemption. The program will prioritize those on an existing Senior Emergency Home Repair waitlist or those who were not able to weatherize their homes because of their roof conditions.

Applicants should hear back by spring of next year and repairs are slated to start in spring 2024, according to a news release. Those who are approved will have one major repair done — whether roof or window — based on whichever is the most urgent.

For more information and to apply, go to www.detroitmi.gov/RenewDetroit. Residents can apply online starting at midnight. Those who would like to apply over the phone can call the Wayne Metropolitan Community Action Agency at 313-244-0274 throughout October. The hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday to Friday, and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.

“We’re bringing resources back into the neighborhoods,” said Council Member Scott Benson, who represents District 3.

Workers with the DMC Group begin working on the roof of a home that qualified for phase one of the Renew Detroit Program in Detroit on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022.

Earlier this year, the Renew Detroit program received an additional $15 million. Home repairs are a pressing need in Detroit.

An estimated 37,630 Detroit households live in “inadequate” conditions, according to a report from the University of Michigan’s Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. That may look like a home with exposed wiring or electrical issues, a broken furnace or no running water. 

The Renew Detroit program is the first city project to get a slice of the $826 million in federal COVID-19 recovery dollars the city received.

Home repair was among the top concerns Detroiters raised when asked last year how they would like their city government to spend an influx of federal COVID-19 relief dollars. Researchers, residents and community organizations have said existing programs are difficult to tap into and don’t address the breadth of repair needs in the city.

Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and Bridge Detroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA.

Contact Nushrat: nrahman@freepress.com; 313-348-7558. Follow her on Twitter: @NushratR. Sign up for Bridge Detroit’s newsletter. Become a Free Press subscriber.