Families become homeowners through innovative Detroit Land Bank program

July 11th, 2017
Krystal Spears and her son Steven on the porch of their home in southwest Detroit.

Krystal Spears had paid her rent diligently but still received an eviction notice because, unbeknownst to her, the landlord had failed to pay the property taxes on the home in southwest Detroit. The notice came nearly four years ago. It began a very stressful time for Krystal, worrying about where she and her two children would live. But what she could not anticipate was that the threat of eviction was also the beginning of an opportunity to achieve a status she never thought she would enjoy: A homeowner.

Krystal is one of 80 families to receive the deed to their home today through the “Occupied Buy Back Program” instituted by the Detroit Land Bank. The program enables someone living in a home owned by the Land Bank through tax foreclosure to acquire that home by fulfilling certain requirements. Those requirements include paying a $1,000 purchase price to the Land Bank, and then depositing $100 a month in a special escrow account for one year to cover the property tax bill, as well as maintaining the property and staying current on utility and water bills. The occupant must also complete homebuyer education workshops with a designated nonprofit partnering with the Land Bank to implement the Buy Back program.

Southwest Solutions is one such partner, and Krystal received her homebuyer and financial literacy certificates with our organization. Of the 80 families receiving their deeds at a special event today, 13 were assisted by Southwest Solutions.

“This is an important day for Detroit,” said Mayor Mike Duggan at the event. “This program helps stabilize neighborhoods by keeping homes occupied. Not only does a family get to stay in their home, but it also reduces the possibility of the home becoming vacant and blighted.”

The Detroit Land Back has about 25,000 houses in its inventory, and about 5,000 of those are occupied, the Mayor estimated. He hopes that the Occupied Buy Back program will eventually result in 1,000 homeowners. The families attending the event today were the first group. Next month, a second group of about 100 will get their deeds. To date, 566 families have enrolled in the program.

Krystal after the special event where she received the deed to her home.

Krystal is part of the “working poor.” She had believed that homeownership was beyond her reach and that she would always be a renter. Until the Buy Back program came along.

“This is incredibly exciting and unexpected,” Krystal said. “My home is in the same neighborhood where I grew up. My children go to school just down the block. It’s a different feeling to be a homeowner. You feel more a part of the community.”

“It is deeply rewarding to see someone like Krystal and other families we are helping achieve the dream of homeownership,” said Libby Palackdharry, Director of Financial Stability Programs at Southwest Solutions. “The Buy Back program is a credit to the innovative thinking of the Detroit Land Bank and exemplifies the City’s commitment to create a Detroit for all.”

The Buy Back program is open to families who lost their homes to tax foreclosure or were renting homes that the landlords lost to foreclosure. To learn more about the program, contact the Land Bank at 1-844-BUY-DLBA.

In addition to Southwest Solutions, the other homebuyer counseling partners are Central Detroit Christian, National Faith Homebuyers, U Snap Bac, and Wayne Metro.

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