One Detroit organization is working hard to reclaim residential security for residents who have faced evictions and landlord scams, and through some financial assistance from DTE Energy, it’s gaining even more momentum in its housing goals.
The Neighborhood Defender Service of Detroit (NDS), a non-profit organization, was awarded $20,000 by DTE to help boost its innovative work as a community-based, holistic public defense practice. The financial support will help Wayne County residents keep their housing through the Eviction Defense Practice, providing legal representation and related social work to individuals and their families who are facing eviction as the result of an arrest or COVID-related hardships, according to a press release.
The DTE Energy Foundation, in total, awarded over $1 million in grants to nonprofits, more inclusion efforts for adults with disabilities, and equity-centered approaches for stimulus funding, according to a press release.
A Place to Call Home
“Being able to tap into resources like DTE’s funds helps us to better serve our clients,” Chantá Parker, NDS managing director, told the Michigan Chronicle. “We are using the funds to help support the eviction defense practice.”
“The Foundation will continue to ensure its grantmaking process supports social justice, leading us to partner with nonprofits that share similar goals such as racial justice. It’s an honor to award these incredible organizations that continue to make a positive impact in our neighborhoods,” said Lynette Dowler, president, DTE Foundation in a press release. “The strength, support and passion of our community partners are vital in helping us carry out our mission of service.”
Parker added that the “bread and butter” is NDS’s work as a public defender, allowing its office to take a holistic approach to represent clients facing evictions and destabilized housing situations.
“During the pandemic, I saw a need for housing support and eviction defense,” Parker said, adding that their fairly new organization is finding more clients and fulfilling a need. “The need is certainly there in Wayne County.”
NDS also helps address local fake landlord scams that are costing Detroiters financially through housing rental scams.
According to national data, about 5.2 million U.S. renters have lost money due to rental scams, Forbes reported – and that’s just the beginning.
Locally, one in 10 Detroiters dealing with an eviction are more than likely to be victimized by this insidious crime that the city, and vulnerable residents, especially Black residents, have dealt with for 10 years.
Ted Phillips, executive director of the United Community Housing Coalition, told the Michigan Chronicle previously that targeted residents include low-income Detroiters with poor credit and potential background issues.
Phillips said that before COVID-19 in Detroit, about 31,000 cases a year were filed at 36th District Court.
Parker said that NDS takes on cases from renters who find out the hard way that they were renting from a fake landlord.
“Sometimes we can come across those types of things when someone has thought that they were purchasing a piece of property in the proper way and come to find out a seller didn’t have a proper title to the property and how do they properly acquire it as they were scammed by a seller,” Parker said. She added that she’s been seeing multiple cases like that for some time. “I expect we will continue to see more of those — that is a real issue here. … We [will] attack it just like any other case. We figure out where in the process the tenant is [and] … we intervene… to keep someone in their home.”
For more information visit Neighborhododefender.org.
Up to Code
The City of Detroit is also stepping up to help residents by providing an answer to a major issue behind lead poisoning impacting children and adults alike.
Starting this year, the City of Detroit Buildings Safety, Engineering & Environmental Department (BSEED) will move to increase enforcement for rental properties as part of its continued efforts to reduce child lead poisonings in the city.
The modified ordinance was approved by the City Council in October 2021 and is effective now.
“The ultimate goal here is code compliance, most importantly, making rental properties lead-safe to protect children and families,” said Dave Bell, director of BSEED. “These changes will help us achieve that by providing carrot-and-stick incentives for landlords to come into compliance and keep tenants safe.”
The updated ordinance was adopted based on the recommendation of BSEED, which had incorporated significant input from landlords and advocates. Under the new guidelines, the City of Detroit maintains its role as one of the strictest in the nation on requiring lead compliance from landlords. BSEED staff surveyed approximately 20 other major cities and found that Detroit was the only one to require regular risk assessment analyses for rental properties.
Over the past 20 years, the number of children that test positive for elevated blood lead levels each year has gone down by more than 90 percent, according to State of Michigan data. In 1998, more than 16,000 children tested positive, compared to about 1,400 in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available.
“The City of Detroit also provides nurse case management for children ages six and under who have elevated blood levels, through the Lead Prevention and Intervention Program administered by the Detroit Health Department,” said Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair Razo. “Our Lead team provides education so Detroiters are aware of potential sources of lead exposure in their homes, testing, and most importantly, services to reduce blood lead levels below an actionable level in children who may have been exposed.”
To receive a Certificate of Compliance to operate as a rental property, properties must be inspected and determined to be safe. To achieve this compliance, the city conducts regular inspections, educates those landlords who are non-compliant, and enforces, when necessary, through tickets and fines.
If a rental property does not have a Certificate of Compliance or there is a complaint, call 313-628-2451.