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More than 70 individuals who have been living in houses owned by the Detroit Land Bank Authority and have completed its “Occupied Buy-Back” program officially became homeowners and received their deeds in the first of two planned ceremonies this year. The new homeowners were presented their deeds on Tuesday, July 17that the Northwest Activities Center on the city’s west side.

The Occupied Buy-Back Program, launched in 2015, offers an opportunity for eligible occupants in a DLBA-owned house a path to homeownership. Last year, 180 occupants completed the program and are now homeowners. This year, nearly 150 more occupants receive deeds to the houses they now occupy.

“Through a variety of circumstances, these individuals and families have been living in Land Bank-owned properties because they felt they had no other option,” said DLBA Board Chair, Erica Ward Gerson. “The Occupied Buyback Program is like none other in the country because it gives these individuals a path to homeownership and the support they need to be successful homeowners.”

The program not only provides an opportunity for homeownership, participants are given homeownership and financial counseling courses, then partnered with a local non-profit that will provide resources and guidance. Each participant must open a savings account to save toward the following year’s summer tax bill.

Who qualifies?

The Occupied Buy-back Program is a key component of the DLBA’s mission to invest in and stabilize Detroit neighborhoods.  The program is open to the individuals who meet some or all of the criteria listed below:

  • The last owner of record before public ownership
  • People renting the property at time of foreclosure
  • Has a family member that was the last owner of record before public ownership
  • Have paid utilities in the property for at least twelve months
  • Can demonstrate that they have made significant improvements to the property.

Since inception, the DLBA has been contacted by over 1500 people wanting to participate: 465 have been enrolled, with new enrollments happening every month.

“I am tremendously proud of each of these families that have met the requirements of this program to receive their deed today and equally proud of the Land Bank staff for creating this life-changing program,” said Mayor Mike Duggan.

How does it work?

There are several requirements for participants in the Occupied Buy-Back program to meet before they can exit the program. First, homebuyer counseling sessions helps determine the financial ability of the occupant to successfully own and maintain the home. The occupant then pays a flat fee of $1,000 to purchase the property. In addition, they must put the equivalent of one month’s worth of property taxes into an escrow savings account that will be used to pay the following year’s property taxes. The deed to the home is placed in escrow until that occurs.

During the year long period, the occupant must maintain the exterior of the home, keep current on both their tax payments and water bills, and attend quarterly workshops with the DLBA partner agencies.  Once completed, the deed is removed from escrow, and the home then belongs to the occupant.

The program allows occupants of DLBA-owned homes to purchase the property while also connecting them to public benefits and resources. To-date, the program has enrolled over 400 households in the Occupied Buy Back program. Another Buy-Back Exit event will be held in August where another 80 families will get the opportunity to become property owners.

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