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Detroit touts "unique," neighborhood-driven affordable housing project

Osborn native Ronald Norwood, who purchased one of the Mapleridge Project duplexes, said he wants to invest in the neighborhood that raised him.
City of Detroit
Osborn native Ronald Norwood, who purchased one of the Mapleridge Project duplexes, said he wants to invest in the neighborhood that raised him.

Detroit officials are hailing a neighborhood-based housing restoration project as a possible model for the rest of the city.

It comes from the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance on the city’s east side, which has years of experience with rehabbing homes there. Their latest effort, dubbed the Mapleridge Housing Project, involves restoring vacant duplexes on Mapleridge street. They’ve purchased several that they plan to rehab, then sell at below-market value.

There’s a second piece of the plan: the Alliance wants to sell to families that will live in one unit, while renting out the second at a "deeply affordable" rate. The rental units will be available to families with federal Section 8 housing vouchers.

Quincy Jones, the Osborn Neighborhood Alliance’s executive director, said the project was a natural evolution of the group’s years-long work on Mapleridge street. “We said that we're going to buy up every home on Mapleridge and sell them, but we did not want to sell a house just to a family,” he said. “We wanted to create a wealth-building strategy where a moderate-income family would become an occupied landlord.”

Jones said that with the housing vouchers, “rents from the affordable unit will cover up to 90% of the expenses of the home. This was the start of the Mapleridge Housing project.” He added that the group has already sold two of the homes.

The city is subsidizing the project with over $750,000 in federal grants, as well as money from its Strategic Neighborhoods Fund. The homes will come fully renovated, complete with new kitchens, new bathrooms, new roofs, granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances, according to a city press release.

Jones praised the city and the Alliance’s other partners in the project, including the Detroit Land Bank Authority. That entity, once Detroit’s largest landowner by far, has drastically reduced its inventory of blighted and vacant homes in the two years, as the city has worked to either demolish or rehab them.

“This project is unique, and also helps to create generational wealth for the households that will someday be owners,” said Julie Schneider, director of Detroit’s Housing and Development Department. “It’s also a unique opportunity to bring new Section 8 housing within the neighborhood.”

Ronald Norwood grew up in the Osborn neighborhood, and returned to live there as an adult. He said he looked forward to coming back and becoming a homeowner, “though I didn’t know how tough it would be.”

Norwood, who’s now buying one of the Mapleridge Project homes, said he wants to be a part of reinvesting in the community that raised him. “Opportunities like this create not only homeowners, but it also helps us be able to be supportive of other people who are looking for affordable housing, which is hard to come by these days,” he said.

“I want to continue to be a part of that effort,” Norwood added. “From what I've learned, if you invest in people, in a community that you love…I like to be a living testament of what you can do with that.”

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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