Detroit – And the neighborhoods?
In recent years, as investments in Detroit transformed much of downtown and Midtown, a short drive down any major highway (up Woodward, Grand River, Jefferson, Gratiot) told a different story, and For some Detroiters, the real story: The city’s neighborhoods, where its people live, where its small businesses call home, are still struggling. The new skyscrapers and sports facilities are nice, critics said, but what about the neighborhoods?
A partial answer to that question came Thursday when Dan Gilbert, the multi-million dollar business owner and a driver of downtown’s transformation for the past decade, said he plans to invest $ 500 million in the city’s neighborhoods over the next 10 years. .
The founder of Quicken Loans Inc. and owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers made the announcement during an interview that aired Thursday on “CBS This Morning,” and expanded on it at a press conference at 10 am at One Campus Martius.
“I’d like to see the people of Detroit benefit,” Gilbert said. “You look at all the levels in the city center right now and we have to bring that into the neighborhoods and make the whole city have that energy.”
The entrepreneurial titan told CBS that the effort will start with $ 15 million in property taxes due. It will cover about 20,000 homes, said Jay Farner, CEO of Rocket Mortgage.
Farner said the donation “will remove the burden of property tax debt.”
He praised Quicken for playing a “small role” in the city’s rebirth since moving its headquarters downtown 11 years ago, but said the “systematic and generational” problems facing the city will not have “quick fixes.” .
Mayor Mike Duggan said the gift made Thursday “an extraordinary day for Detroit, a great step forward in a strategy to begin breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty in this city.”
For the past decade, Gilbert chaired the Detroit Blight task force. That job put him in close and regular contact with Duggan, and that relationship continues.
“Dan was totally focused on stabilizing the neighborhoods,” Duggan said. “He told me: ‘If we don’t stop people from leaving the houses, all we are going to do is stay behind.’
Duggan continued, “It was Dan and his team who paid for neighborhood groups to knock on every door in this city that had a family in danger of execution, telling them about all the available programs, signing for the poverty waiver, and we cut Foreclosures of Owner-Occupied Homes by 95% “.
“We have very few foreclosures right now,” Duggan said. “The stress is that there are people with bills from four, five or six years hanging over their heads, which makes them unsafe in their life, every day, and what the Gilberts have done today is give them a path to safety. financial “. Duggan said.
Property taxes were an issue that concerned residents, Farner and Gilbert said on CBS.
“It was very clear to us that it was property taxes that caused most of the plague in Detroit and that the vast majority of citizens were in foreclosure,” Gilbert said in the CBS interview. “With interest and penalties, that debt continued to grow and, in some cases, it was more than they owed on the mortgage and people just walked out of their houses because they couldn’t pay it anymore.”
Wayne County Executive Warren Evans announced that the county would contribute another $ 5 million in foreclosure prevention funds.
“Is it a total solution to the problem of foreclosures? Absolutely not, ”Evans said. “Is it a step in the right direction? It is. It leads us down the road. “
Evans described foreclosure as a “social process”, not merely an economic one.
“Sometimes you wonder, how do people fight to get over it?” Evans said. The home is the “biggest investment most people make,” Evans said. Stabilizing home ownership will stabilize families, he said.
Gilbert also spoke about recovering from a May 26, 2019 stroke and spending months in rehab.
“You start to appreciate everyone and everything more than you did,” he said. “When you have a stroke, it’s like the whole family had a stroke.”
CBS reporter Dana Jacobson said that in the interview a couple of weeks ago, Gilbert said that he goes to the office about two days a week and uses a wheelchair to help him get around. Plus, she has hours of physical therapy almost every day.
At the Detroit event, Gilbert, dressed in a light blue sweater, walked to the lectern with the help of a cane and an assistant.
“Nice morning for a walk,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert said the more he and his team studied Detroit’s problems, they came to believe that property tax foreclosures were at the root of them, creating “massive cycles of blight.”
“This is not a rare problem,” Gilbert said. “It is huge and contagious. And big problems require big solutions. “
Jennifer Gilbert, dressed completely in black, stood slightly behind Gilbert, with her right hand on his right shoulder, during the two comments.
“Detroiters need greater access to economic opportunity,” he said. Property tax debt is “the root of the problem.”
In 2010, the mortgage mogul and real estate developer moved Quicken Loans headquarters from Livonia to downtown Detroit. His company Bedrock owns more than 100 properties downtown. He and his affiliates are Detroit’s largest employer, with more than 17,000 workers.
Gilbert companies have invested and committed more than $ 5.6 billion in their efforts to help revitalize Detroit.