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Inclusion and equitable growth can often be just buzz words thrown around, but not for LISC. They are the latest strategies for revitalizing communities and building sustainable neighborhoods throughout the city of Detroit.
On Tuesday, September 11, Detroit LISC hosted the Inclusion, Equitable Growth and Housing Symposium at DTE Energy in Detroit. An expert panel addressed a wide range of urgent issues - from equitable growth, insufficiency of affordable housing for low income families, new federal, state and local tax credits to creating private sector ecosystems that will attract young talented entrepreneurs to underinvested neighborhoods and addressing race beyond a coincidental factor.
During the event, representatives from Detroit LISC, National LISC, Michigan State Housing Development Authority, the City of Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department, along with community development advocates and grassroots organizations took party in a productive discussion around the latest plans, policies, and initiatives for investing in communities to drive housing equity and lead economic growth.
Tahirih Ziegler, Detroit LISC Executive Director informed the attendees that LISC's current community investment strategy includes a$75 million investment to finance thousands of affordable homes, businesses and jobs in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. LISC also plans to leverage another $225 million in development.
Mark Stiers, President and COO of DTE Energy’s Gas division, and LAB chair was on hand and spoke about the need for all stakeholders, including corporate, private and philanthropic, to support and invest in Detroit neighborhoods.
“DTE wants to be a force for growth and prosperity in communities where we live and serve," said Stiers. “We support LISC’s vision for the city’s renaissance.”
Symposium Panel Moderator Burney Johnson, Deputy Director of Michigan State Housing Development Authority asked LISC President and CEO Maurice Jones to share his insights on how some of the national LISC strategies can be successfully transferred to Detroit. Jones said now is the time to be ambitious and bold.
“LISC funds are popping up across the country to fill in what tax credits can’t do. We need to work in different lanes. New market tax credits, small business loans and the new $6 trillion Opportunity Zone tax credits will be a game changer,” said Jones.
Jones also pointed out that job training and preparing the workforce for the new careers and positions that will be created from economic development is also critical.
“We are now in the boom, however, we need to prepare the labor force," Jones remarked. "We need to help community members learn new skills and prepare for the good jobs. This is just as important as affordable housing. You have to do both simultaneously. We have to educate, train and partner with companies and organizations. Apprenticeships are underutilized in the U.S. We need to take advantage of all opportunities.”
Panel member Donald Rencher, City of Detroit Housing and Revitalization Department Director discussed Detroit’s Affordable Housing Leverage Fund. Rencher said the city’s proposed $250 million affordable housing fund would preserve 10,000 existing units in neighborhoods throughout the city and develop 2,000 new units within the next five years. The Affordable Housing Leverage Fund will be financed with $50 million in grants, $150 million in low-interest loans, and $50 million in public funds from expected federal and city funds for affordable housing, over the next five years.
Rencher said, “We have selected 10 neighborhoods because the city is so large and there is so much blight. One neighborhood will represent each district of Detroit. We have to do better.”
Sarida Scott-Montgomery, Executive Director of Community Development Advocates of Detroit brought insight to the symposium regarding issues of racial equity in housing and transportation.
“There is a need for all stakeholders to reap the benefits of a development. We need to understand the needs of residents living below the median income level. Transportation is a big issue. Communities need to benefit as well as developers. More resources are needed to address housing affordability,” she said.
Panelist Kathy Makino-Leipsitz, President and Managing Partner of Shelborne Development said the historic rehabilitation tax credit is an excellent tool for helping to revitalize older neighborhoods suffering from systemic blight.
"It allows developers such as me to focus on the rehab of vacant apartment buildings in neighborhoods like the Palmer Park historic apartment district, New Center and Jefferson-Chalmers neighborhoods. The tax credits enable developers to also focus on bringing back the surrounding parks and youth centers," said Makino-Leipsitz.
LISC is celebrating 40 years and $18.6 billion of equitable impact investing in communities. “We’re excited about the revitalization of Detroit and you can see that by bringing everyone to the table is a big part of what will make it work for all,” Ziegler said. “The support from corporations, community groups and government agencies combined is what will make equitable growth and inclusion sustainable for our communities.”
To watch more highlights from the symposium, please visit our YouTube channel.