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How 60,000 Residents Helped Get to the Root of Detroit’s Housing Challenge

November 14, 2019 | By

“Make sure you’re falling in love with the problem, not with the solution.” That was sage advice a mentor had given Laura Grannemann, head of Quicken Loans Community Fund. As one of the panelists at the Unlocking the Market: Big Ideas for Local Housing Challenges conference, sponsored by the Urban Institute and Fannie Mae, Grannemann described how this philosophy drove her team to find solutions to the housing crisis in Detroit.

A daunting challenge

Over the past 12 years, Detroit experienced 135,000 property tax foreclosures that led to enormous instability and hardship for residents, impacting many other areas of the city’s economy. So, mustering all the resources, investment capital, skills, and systems change tools in the philanthropic toolbox, the team began tackling the problem.

Power in numbers

Quicken Loans enlisted 32 community groups and hired 450 residents to talk with people living at 60,000 properties that had fallen behind on taxes. The feedback helped the team to better understand who was experiencing delinquencies and why.

What did they hear?

According to Grannemann, they discovered a heartbreaking fact: 75% of homeowners who had been deemed delinquent in paying property taxes may not have owed the city one cent. Tens of thousands of people qualified for a complete property tax exemption based on their income level and household size. But these people could have lost their homes — and untold others may have already been foreclosed on — because they didn’t know the exemption existed and therefore never filed an application.

To expeditiously address the problem, Quicken invested in the city government’s technology to increase access to the applications for tax exemption and co-hosted monthly workshops with community groups to assist applicants. Grannemann believes these efforts will more than triple applications to 10,000 this year — and even more going forward.

Watch the full story

Learn how this “boots on the ground” approach is helping to solve other housing challenges in Detroit — like how they very creatively converted about a thousand renters into homeowners for less than they were paying in rent. Watch Laura Grannemann’s discussion as well as other panels from the conference sponsored by the Urban Institute and Fannie Mae.

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