When an occupied rental property goes into tax foreclosure, the typical outcomes—displacement, vacancy, property deterioration—harm people and communities. In Detroit, local stakeholders created a program to disrupt this process and help tenants purchase and rehabilitate their homes. The Make it Home Program, created by the City of Detroit, United Community Housing Coalition (UCHC), and Rocket Community Fund (RCF), uses the City’s legal power to acquire occupied, tax-delinquent, primarily single-family properties and then transfers the properties to the occupants, while providing funding and assistance for repairs and education and resources to help sustain their homeownership. 

Since its launch in 2017, the program has helped 1,396 tenants and other occupants purchase their homes for an average cost of less than $10,000. A University of Michigan study of the first cohort of Make it Home participants found that after four years, 85 percent of the 80 participants still owned their homes. 

In May 2022, the Center for Community Progress, with support from RCF, launched the Make it Home National Replication Initiative, which aimed to explore whether Make it Home could be replicated in other communities. Through the summer of 2022, we convened a Make it Home Learning Cohort, which helped thirteen selected communities learn about Detroit’s program and explore whether they could create a similar program in their communities. The Learning Cohort communities included: 

  • Atlanta, Georgia 
  • Chautauqua County, New York 
  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • Lima, Ohio
  • Louisville, Kentucky 
  • Memphis, Tennessee
  • Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • Salem, New Jersey
  • Summit County, Ohio 
  • Sidney, New York
  • Syracuse, New York
  • Trumbull County, Ohio
  • Tucson, Arizona

In November 2022, we published a report, From Harm to Home: Replicating Detroit’s Make it Home Program, designed to serve as a resource for communities interested in creating a program like Make it Home. This report:  

  • Provides an overview of how Make it Home currently operates, its history, and its outcomes 
  • Summarizes the key components necessary for program replication, such as a cost-effective and reliable mechanism to gain control of tax-delinquent, occupied rental properties 
  • Includes replication playbooks for eleven of the thirteen Learning Cohort participant cities, assessing their potential for replication and offering steps they can take to improve readiness 
  • Identifies additional cities likely to have the key program components and therefore potential for replication 
  • Shares lessons learned from Make it Home to inform successful replication in other communities 

If your community is interested in creating a program like Make it Home, we encourage you to contact Community Progress at info@communityprogress.org to learn more about the program and further learning opportunities.

Additional Resources 

Alexa Eisenberg, Connor Wakayama, and Patrick Cooney, Reinforcing Low-Income Homeownership Through Home Repair: Evaluation of the Make it Home Repair Program, February 2021. 

City of Detroit, Mayor Duggan, Rocket Community Fund, United Community Housing Coalition celebrate Make it Home program helping nearly 250 more Detroit residents become homeowners, October 13, 2022. 

City of Milwaukee, Tenant Transition to Ownership Program. 

Detroit Land Bank Authority, Buy Back/Occupied Program. 

Karen Ann Kling and Evelyn Zwiebach, In Good Faith: Reimagining the Use of the Land Contracts, June 10, 2021.  

Margaret Dewar and Roshanak Mehdipanah, Lessons From Detroit’s Make it Home Program For Sustaining Very Low-Income Homeownership, August 2022.  

Roshanak Mehdipanah, Margaret Dewar, and Alexa Eisenberg, Threats to and Opportunities for Low-Income Homeownership, Housing Stability, and Health: Protocol for the Detroit 2017 Make-It-Home Evaluation Study, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2021, 18, 11230.