SW Detroit

Southwest Detroit Business Association launches 2nd-floor residential grants to create more affordable housing

Southwest Detroit Business Association

DETROIT — In collaboration with the City of Detroit Housing & Revitalization Department (HRD), the Southwest Detroit Business Association (SDBA) announced today the start of its Second-Floor Residential Grant Program, which aims to convert vacant, second-floor space above commercial spaces into affordable apartment units in Southwest Detroit.

The program, which will reimburse property owners up to $10,000 for performing eligible improvements on their unused second-floor apartments, is expected to result in 24 new affordable housing units. Property owners can apply now until 5 p.m. March 31.

“At the City of Detroit, we are always looking for ways to create affordable housing and opportunities for Detroiters,” said Julie Schneider, director of HRD. “This great program does both, by converting unused space into affordable places for Detroiters to live, reinvigorating our commercial corridors and helping to stabilize income for local property owners.”

The funding allocated by the City of Detroit is part of the $203 million housing plan announced in July by Mayor Mike Duggan and City Council members as part of an effort to increase the number of code-compliant, naturally occurring affordable rental housing units.

Eligible properties must have unused second-floor apartments located above ground-floor commercial space. They also must be located within the geographic boundaries of West Vernor Highway from Woodmere to 15th Street; Springwells Street from West Vernor to the West Fisher Service Drive; Junction from Michigan Avenue to Konkel Street; and Bagley Avenue from the West Fisher Service Drive to 25th Street. Anticipated rental rates for apartments are $780-$1,250, making them affordable to residents earning between 50 percent and 80 percent of area median income. More information can be found at www.southwestdetroit.com.

In 2016, the SDBA surveyed local business owners and identified more than 80 buildings with vacant second floors that are located within the West Vernor & Springwells Business Improvement District (BID). As a result, the SDBA implemented a publicly funded pilot with funding from the Kresge Foundation to incentivize commercial property owners to renovate their vacant second floors into affordable apartments.

The successful pilot demonstrated the feasibility of such conversions and further demonstrated how second-floor residential units provide a more active business corridor. The 12 new rental apartments increased the living options for residents, generated more foot traffic in the area, and spurred economic development along the commercial corridor. The program also created new revenue streams for local property owners, providing financial stability as neighborhood retail markets were disrupted by the COVID pandemic.

“We are excited for our continued partnership with the City of Detroit, bringing economic development opportunities to Southwest Detroit and simultaneously increasing access to safe and affordable housing for Detroit residents,” said SDBA Vice President of Programs and Compliance Laura Chavez-Wazeerud-Din.

The SDBA has been providing nearly 70 years of community and economic development to the business and residential community of Southwest Detroit. It was the first agency in the city of Detroit to implement a façade-improvement program, established an environmental focus that spun off to become Southwest Detroit Environmental Vision (SDEV), established and spun-off the Mexicantown Community Development Corp. (MCDC), established the first BID in the state of Michigan, and built a 2.3-mile new lighting system for its major thoroughfare along West Vernor Highway. It also laid the groundwork and received the first Michigan Main Street designation in Detroit for the Mexicantown-Hubbard communities.

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