In a proposed deal with the Detroit Housing Commission, the city is looking to purchase nearly 400 units of public housing, including Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments and 127 single family homes. The deal aims to eliminate blight and strengthen the Detroit Housing Commission’s ability to serve low-income Detroiters and will go before City Council for approval this week.

The $1.7 million transaction would transfer the historic Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartment buildings to the Detroit Building Authority and 127 single family properties to the Detroit Land Bank Authority. Many of the vacant single family homes couldn’t be sold under DHC guidelines, but under the deal, they will be added to the Land Bank’s auction website or demolished if necessary. A majority of the homes are in neighborhoods including Fitzgerald, University District, Bagley, and Grandmont-Rosedale.

“These homes are often the last vacant properties left on these vibrant blocks,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “Now we’re going to sell them, rehab them and the residents on these blocks are going to get new neighbors. We’re bringing new families into the neighborhoods and eliminating blight. This is a win for everybody involved.”

The City will market the Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments for redevelopment with city funding opportunities. Twenty percent of the units in the multi-family buildings will require affordable housing in the redevelopment and the city will offer design and preservation guidelines for these historic assets. Lee Plaza, once a luxury apartment building, was later converted to housing for low-income seniors. The building has been vacant for 20 years. Multiple developers have already expressed interest in both buildings and the marketing is expected to begin in July 2017.

The purchase would increase access to rental assistance to low income Detroiters making 30 to 50 percent of the area median income, consistent with the City Inclusionary Housing Study recommendations. The transaction would additionally resolve resident complaints about vacant DHC homes in high-occupied neighborhoods by putting them on sale through the land bank for rehabilitation. The deal would also significantly strengthen the DHC, the primary resource serving low income Detroiters through public housing and Section 8 vouchers.

The DHC emerged from receivership with city help in 2015 and if the deal is approved, the commission would be on its way to being designated a high performing commission by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. The DHC will use the capital from the transaction to rehabilitate developments like Parkview in District 4, further ensuring a high-performer designation for 2018.

This designation would also give the commission access to new flexibility and funding to support low income Detroiters and could help the city apply for the US HUD “Moving to Work” program. Moving to Work gives the commission the ability to create an additional 1,000+ vouchers in annual rental assistance. A high-performing status also improves the commission’s competitiveness for public housing revitalization programs like the Choice Neighborhoods grant implementation program.

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