Detroit’s 1 square mile Fitzgerald neighborhood is full of assets: tree-lined streets; a special meeting point for residents; Community gardens; a new park converted from empty land; 4,300 residential houses, brick building from the middle of the century; a synergy created by infrastructure investments by the City of Detroit, the Kresge Foundation, and others; and an abundance of lifelong Detroit residents.
One such resident is Patsy Wheatley, who lives on Stoepel Street near West McNichols Road in the northeast corner of the neighborhood. Wheatley has lived in her home, built around 1950, for 20 years and bought the property when her three sons were young. Now her boys have children of their own who often play next to her on the property. Wheatley bought it and equipped it with a swing and a trampoline for their grandchildren. That of course made it an attraction for other kids in the neighborhood.
“When I get home from work in the summer, I’m almost the neighborhood babysitter because I end up having kids,” Wheatley says. “They know when I am arriving and they are ready to play.”
She says the children play after dark and keep them out of trouble; She offers snacks and her brother, who lives across the street, sometimes grills hot dogs for the kids.
However, living in an older home comes with a fair amount of upkeep, and that upkeep costs money. A few years ago, Wheatley knew she had to replace an old bathtub and do something about her drafty basement. When she found out about the 0% home repair loan program through Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) in Detroit, she called and filed an application.
The loan program was launched in April 2015 between LISC, the Department of Housing and Revitalization of the City of Detroit, and Bank of America to provide funding to Detroit homeowners who address health and safety issues and their homes with necessary needs Want to improve repairs and updates. The program’s newest funding partner, Quicken Loans Community Fund, joined in 2019. Since the start of the program, 157 applications have been received in the Fitzgerald district. 72 of these have been approved, with 42 completed to date, with 42 repair projects equivalent to $ 1.05 million borrowed by homeowners and reinvested in their homes.
Common items on loan are roofs, gutters and downpipes, windows, ovens or air conditioning systems, conversions in the kitchen or bathroom, and painting. Loan amounts range from $ 5,000 to $ 25,000 and homeowners have 10 years to repay the loan.
According to Damon Thompson, assistant director of LISC Detroit, there is a sense of community in the Fitzgerald neighborhood that residents like Wheatley encourage. Block clubs are vibrant and numerous, with at least eight or nine in the area bordering McNichols to the north, Fenkell Avenue to the south, Meyers Road / John C. Lodge Freeway to the west, and Livernois to the east. The neighborhood is anchored between two educational institutions: the University of Detroit Mercy and Marygrove College, which is being repurposed as an educational center for the cradle of careers. Fitzgerald is also part of many different revitalization efforts, including the City of Detroit’s Strategic Neighborhood Fund and Live6 in real estate and small business development, placemaking, security, and community engagement.
But Fitzgerald has yet to stabilize his housing stock and maintain existing apartments. To help in this area, LISC has partnered with the Kresge Foundation to target the home repairs loan program in Fitzgerald.
In particular, Kresge supports the Fitzgerald Outreach Project. The goal of the initiative launched in 2019 is to approve 100 homeowners for the 0% home repair interest loan program using a targeted strategy with existing community partners. LISC has partnered with Touchpointe Network, a marketing and outreach company that focuses its public relations efforts on the youth sports community and other community groups.
The home repair loan program is backed by Touchpointe Network and President Kevin McAdoo looks forward to the future of the partnership.
Kevin McAdoo, President of Touchpointe Network, has worked with LISC in the past when the program needed a new way to address community engagement.
While the marketing efforts for the Fitzgerald program in 2020 were ruined by the pandemic, McAdoo has plans for a big boost this spring. As soon as the weather permits, he and his team will be knocking on the door to connect with residents and have plans for a postcard campaign to raise awareness of the program. Admission centers across Detroit offer application assistance and free financial literacy courses. Incentives to apply will also be part of the mix. They can include tickets to UD Mercy sporting events or discounted restaurants in the Livernois Corridor. McAdoo also plans direct contact with community organizations, block clubs, religious organizations and youth sports groups.
The public outreach is not only informed about the loan program, says McAdoo. “We’re trying to keep more people in place in order to involve more people,” he says. “Not just in this particular 0% loan program, but across the community.”
If homeowners are interested, the process is relatively straightforward: 1) they fill out a home repair application, 2) they submit it to the nearest reception center (there are 11 in town, but the closest to Fitzgerald is Wayne Metropolitan Community Action The agency is located in the Northwest Activity Center in front of Curtis 3) The application is assigned to a lender for subscription and approval. 4) If approved, an inspection is scheduled and homeowners will be given a list of approved contractors to choose to do the work.
According to Wheatley, the process was relatively straightforward and mostly involved filling out paperwork and providing financial information. After the loan was approved, she was required to open an account with One Detroit Credit Union to forward payments through automatic deductions from her paycheck from Blue Cross Blue Shield, where she has been with 29 years. Her loan was around $ 5,000 and covered the cost of removing and replacing the tub, new bathroom tiles, spray insulation for the basement, and pointing out her porch.
“I’m trying to tell as many people as possible about it, but people don’t want to hand in the files. It’s time consuming, but they’ll help, ”says Wheatley. “You have to be patient, but some people’s patience is short.”
Other reasons for reluctance to apply to homeowners are privacy issues (fear that program staff will report housing status information to city inspectors, which they don’t); Preference for a grant program in which the expenses do not have to be repaid compared to a loan program; and distrust that it really is a zero percent loan. To counteract this hesitation, applicants can receive coaching from the reception centers on how to fill out the application and submit the required documents.
Dispelling those beliefs has its challenges, but McAdoo believes in promoting the benefits of the program: “It’s a very, very simple process. It is here to do nothing to disturb the homeowner and the community. There is no trick. We’re only there to look after the homeowner and help the person improve the value and quality of life of their home. It’s all positive. “
This is part of a LISC Detroit sponsored series that chronicles the journey of small businesses in Detroit in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.