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Hot potato

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Richard Winslow is aggravated. The local director of ACORN, a national community housing organization, is demanding that the city comply with its “repair to own” program, which requires that 20 city-owned properties a month be made available to Detroit residents. The houses — dilapidated properties mostly slated for demolition — should go to qualified applicants, who can purchase them for a nominal fee if repairs are successfully completed within a year. The problem, says Winslow, is that fewer than 20 homes altogether have made it into the hands of residents since the program was launched in 1998. Currently, no homes are being released.

One hitch is that no city agency wants to take responsibility. Planning and Development Department spokeswoman Sylvia Crawford says she’s never even heard of the program, and suggests that it might actually be the responsibility of the Building and Safety Engineering Department; folks at B&SE say no way.

The hot potato tossing prompted a fed-up Winslow to request a hearing with City Council, which will try to figure out what the heck is going on this Friday.

“The residents of the city have to follow city ordinances, the city should follow the law too,” asserts Winslow, who says he’s assembled a list of 78 city properties perfect for the repair to own program.

Council President Maryann Mahaffey, who sponsored the ordinance, criticizes the Planning and Development Department for insisting that city-owned property be put up for bid, where “the price is always too high for the nonprofits, so the houses end up in the hands of slum landlords. That drives me up a tree.” She says with top planning and building officials playing ignorant, “my suspicion is … they want to get money for the property and they don’t care where the money comes from, while other municipalities sell properties for $1 so nonprofits can redevelop.”

In a related event, ACORN is holding a housing workshop this Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m. in the Crystal Ballroom at the Masonic Temple, 500 Temple, Detroit. Advice will be available from experts on housing loans and grants, and home improvement funding. Winslow also will take applications for two-year, 8 percent interest loans from $500 to $4,000 for home repair and other needs for employed people with relatively good credit. Call 313-963-1840 for more information.

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