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Rebuilding home ownership in Detroit with new opportunities


By John Van Camp

The importance of rebuilding homeownership in Detroit in order to revitalize its neighborhoods cannot be underestimated.

Detroit is where the middle class movement began and took hold, and the distinctively American dream of homeownership helped form the foundation of this defining movement. Detroit had the greatest number of single-family homes per capita and boasted highest rate of homeownership of all American cities in the 1950s. Even today, 85% of all the housing in Detroit consists of single-family homes.


Homeownership in Detroit declined with suburban flight and the economic travails of the city. The homeownership rate recently fell below 50% for the first time. Still, Detroit is the only city in the nation where more African-American families own homes than rent them, and where the African-American homeownership rate is on par with the national white homeownership rate.

We must build on these traditions to reinvigorate our neighborhoods by creating new opportunities for homeownership for families striving to climb the economic ladder. This is exactly the goal of the homeownership assistance programs at Southwest Solutions.


“I think that every Detroiter should strive to have the title of homeowner,” says Kienya Rudolph, a combat veteran who is the first Detroit HomeLIFT homebuyer. “If we all do our part to take care of what we own, blocks will be stronger, neighborhoods will be stronger, and the city will come back stronger than ever.”

Detroit HomeLIFT provides up to $15,000 in downpayment assistance to eligible families wanting to buy a home in Detroit, Livonia, Dearborn, Hamtramck, or Highland Park. Wells Fargo, in partnership with NeighborWorks America, launched HomeLIFT in cities across the country. Southwest Solutions is the lead agency implementing the program in the Detroit area. Detroit HomeLIFT funds are still available, and we encourage interested homebuyers to inquire.

In addition to HomeLIFT, we offer homebuyer education, mortgage lending, and number of special programs and partnerships to promote and maintain homeownership. We partner with the Detroit Land Bank Authority and connect prospective homeowners with its auction and incentive products.

One such homeowner is Charisma Robinson, who purchased a Land Bank house and transformed it into a family home and an asset to the west-side neighborhood.

Reversing the decline of homeownership in Detroit will take time and the concerted effort of government, the financial sector, philanthropy, and community-based organizations. But it is an essential process that we must continue and enhance to ensure the stability and sustainability of our neighborhoods.

– John Van Camp is president and CEO of Southwest Solutions

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