Rebuilding Detroit through homeownership opportunities

December 28th, 2015
Charisma Robinson at home with her children, Jacob and Abigail, and their friends.

“I feel that the revitalization of neighborhoods starts with families,” says Charisma Robinson, who bought and is renovating a vacant house in a west-side neighborhood. “It’s up to us as citizens to take care of our neighborhoods.”

A native Detroiter, Charisma left the city nearly a decade ago to provide a safer environment for her family. She decided to return because of changes in the city, her new job, and the opportunity to own her own home.

With assistance from Southwest Solutions’ homebuyer education and financial counseling programs, Charisma was able to purchase a house from the Detroit Land Bank. The two programs prepared her for the commitment she was undertaking, and consistent follow-up by program coordinators ensure that her finances remain on track.

In May 2015, Charisma won a $2,000 bid for a brick Tudor home in the Barton – McFarland neighborhood. Due to a low appraisal, she was unable to secure a home repair loan. However, with the help of Southwest Solutions, she received financing to pay for repairs to plumbing, floors, gutters and the front porch. A few fixes remain but Charsima enjoys putting sweat equity in her home.

“My son Jake is 17 and it’s given him a sense of pride because when we’re fixing something he wants to learn how to do it,” Charisma says. “The other day when we were putting in windows he was like, ‘No Mom let me do this.'”

Charisma notes that her family will appreciate the house more because they were able to add their own personal touches. Her daughter Abigail has also been helping with the house. So have many other relatives and friends.

Charisma’s investment in Detroit goes beyond the rehabilitation of a vacant home. In a few short months, she has become part of her neighborhood. Although abandoned and blighted properties remain on the block, she and her neighbors are working together to turn things around. Residents mow the lawns of unoccupied houses and look out for each other. Kids play together on the street.

A lot of work remains to address the challenges in the area, but Charisma is determined to do her part. Her goal for the coming year is to buy the empty lot next to her house so that she can stop the illegal dumping on the property and maintain the space. She also wants to start a formal block club to strengthen the residents’ voice in the area.

Charisma is one example of a larger change taking place in the city. Southwest Solutions’ homebuyer education counselor Teresa Torres, who worked with Charisma, observes that the program is experiencing an increase in the number of young homebuyers and families looking to move to Detroit.

“A couple years ago people wanted to buy outside of Detroit, but now the trend is for people to buy inside the city,” says Teresa. “It’s exciting that we’re going to have more revitalized neighborhoods. We are seeing patches here and there, but I hope that in the next five years we’ll see a big difference.”

Supporting neighborhood revitalization is a priority at Southwest Solutions. We have partnered with multiple organizations and companies to rehabilitate vacant homes and connect prospective homeowners with programs such as the Detroit Land Bank and Detroit HomeLIFT that incentivize purchasing a house in the city.

The Detroit Land Bank auctions vacant properties, like the home Charisma purchased, and rehabbed houses in partnership with local corporations. The HomeLIFT program is a collaboration between Southwest Solutions, Wells Fargo and NeighborWorks® America and offers down payment assistance up to $15,000 to qualified homebuyers.

Our homebuyer education class is designed to help all prospective homebuyers. Following the class, each participant meets with a counselor who provides expert assistance through the homebuying process and information about available incentive and down payment assistance programs.

Register for the next Homebuyer Education Class on January 22, 2016 by calling 313.841.9641

To learn more about the Detroit Land Bank visit:

To learn more about the Home LIFT program visit:

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