DETROIT – A billionaire businessman whose companies have invigorated Detroit's downtown announced a $500 million fund to improve neighborhoods on Thursday, starting with $15 million that will pay off the property tax debt of 20,000 of the city’s poorest homeowners.
The money will come from two philanthropic organizations connected to Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who announced the plan.
The $15 million Detroit Tax Relief Fund will leverage existing state and local programs that eliminate or reduce property tax bills, then pay 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. Other potential uses of the $500 million funding were not announced Thursday.
“No person should have to make the decision between keeping their home or feeding their family,” Gilbert, a Detroit native, said at a news conference.
“Partly because of interest and penalties accruing on an annual basis, numerous homeowners find themselves significantly underwater,” he added. “Not only did these homeowners live under the fear that their homes would be taken away from them, but this debt often prevents the property from being sold or refinanced.”
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. Quicken Loans moved to downtown Detroit in 2010. Its family of companies employ more than 24,000, with close to 5,000 living in the city, Gilbert said.
“We have always said that our commitment to Detroit had no borders and we care for every corner of the city as much as we do for downtown,” he added.
The Gilbert Family Foundation is providing $350 million of the $500 million in funding, and the rest will come from the Rock Community Fund.