New program offers up to $20K in home repairs to southwest Detroit homeowners

New program offers up to $20K in home repairs to southwest Detroit homeowners

Miriam Marini
| Detroit Free Press

Through tears, Patricia Ramirez speaks about her love for her home on Driggs Street, a single-family house tucked on the east side of the Delray community in southwest Detroit.

“This is my paradise,” said Ramirez, who has lived in the home for 18 years. “My house is my home, it’s my one house.”

Ramirez is one of about 160 home and duplex owners eligible for a new program created for residents in the areas impacted by construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge. When completed, it will be the second bridge connecting Detroit to Canada.

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The program, created in partnership with Local Initiatives Support Corp. Detroit, is part of a $3.1 million ($4 million CAD)  community benefits plan to help Delray residents near the U.S. port of entry pay for qualifying and needed repairs to their homes of up to $20,000. 

“We recognized that we needed to have the input of homeowners, of the neighbors and business owners in the development of a community benefits plan,” said Heather Grondin, vice president of the Windsor Detroit Bridge Authority. “The home repair program was one that truly reflected the needs and wants of those people. … Ultimately, it was incredibly important for us to make sure that the residents had a voice in the development of that plan.”

Delray is typically defined as the area encased by the River Rouge on the south, east to the Detroit River, west to Fort Street, and north sometimes reaching Clark Street. The historic neighborhood was once a bustling melting pot of about 20,000 residents that never needed to leave their neighborhood for anything — mattresses, car repairs, everything you needed was in Delray.

Now, the community has under 3,000 residents as of the 2010 Census.

The program has yet to receive any applications as of Wednesday, a week since its launch, Grondin said.

Ramirez will be applying for the home repair funding, rather than opting for another program that Delray residents qualify for like the city’s Bridging Neighborhoods Home Swap program, which gives homeowners affected by the bridge the opportunity to move into renovated homes in the city. 

The Home Swap ranks residents’ placement in the program through a point system, with points for proximity, how many years they’ve lived in their home since 2017, and health issues — especially those worsened by air and noise pollution.

With the construction of the bridge, which is expected to be completed by 2024, residents have raised concerns about dust, traffic and noise, and air pollution from diesel trucks. However, residents’ top concern was creating a program to fund home repairs, particularly ventilation and roof work. 

Despite the stressors of living near construction and future challenges once the bridge is finished, Ramirez wants to stay.

“I don’t want to leave my house, my mother-in-law is 90 years old, we don’t want to leave our house,” said Ramirez, a mother of five and grandmother of seven. “The bridge is coming in three or four years, but it’s no matter, I want change now. I want my grandkids to come to their grandma’s house and be OK.”

Securing community benefits, like the home repair program, has been a priority for the Southwest Detroit Community Benefits Coalition for more than a decade as industry continues to move into southwest Detroit. The home repair program is critically important for seniors who can’t afford home repairs but want to stay in the community they’ve known and built.

“We feel very strongly that it’s important to invest in these kinds of things because it’s investing in people’s health, children’s health and people’s daily quality of life,” said Simone Sagovac of the coalition. “And that’s not a small thing, that’s a big thing.”

For now, Ramirez continues to watch trees come down and she continues to plant seeds for more in her yard for the animals.

“My kids say I’m crazy, but no, the birds need a house.”

The Delray Home Improvement Program is beginning its first phase with the area: 

  • Interstate 75 to the north
  • Clark Avenue/South Clark Street to the east
  • West End Street to the west
  • West Jefferson Avenue to the south

If funding remains, a second phase of the program will kick off in 2023 in West Delray and a third phase in Carbon Works in 2024.

Qualifying home repairs include: 

  • Roof repair, including roof replacement
  • Window and door replacement
  • Roof and wall insulation
  • Repair or replacement of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning units

Two virtual information sessions are scheduled Tuesday and Wednesday at 6 p.m. For more information and to apply for the home repair program, visit the program’s website.

Published at Fri, 05 Feb 2021 00:00:00 +0000

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