$500M fund to help Detroit neighborhoods, pay tax debt

DETROIT (AP) — A $500 million fund aimed at improving Detroit neighborhoods over the next decade is kicking off its efforts by spending $15 million to pay off the property tax debt of 20,000 of the city’s poorest homeowners.

Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert announced the Detroit Tax Relief Fund on Thursday, with the money coming from two philanthropic organizations connected to him.

The fund leverages existing state and local programs that eliminate or reduce property tax bills, then pays off the remaining tax bill. It will be administered by a local nonprofit that also will provide counseling to homeowners to keep them out of future property tax debt.

“No person should have to make the decision of keeping their home or feeding their families,” Gilbert, a Detroit native, said at a news conference.

In addition to starting Quicken Loans, now known as Rocket Mortgage, Gilbert founded the Rock family of companies and owns the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. The Gilbert Family Foundation is providing $350 million of the $500 million Detroit Tax Relief Fund, and the the rest will come from the Rock Community Fund. Other potential uses of the funding were not announced Tuesday.

“The money is there and it’s ready to be freed and targeted to any issue,” Gilbert said.

Wayne County, home to Detroit, also will invest $5 million in future foreclosure prevention.

County Executive Warren Evans said that during the Great Recession one in four of all properties in Detroit went into foreclosure.

“Make no mistake, the gift will keep families in their homes,” Evans said Thursday.

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