Matt Helms, Detroit Free Press
November 23, 2015
The AFL-CIO will invest up to $30 million to rehab as many as 300 vacant homes in Detroit in a partnership announced today that also aims to provide job training and career paths to Detroiters.
The AFL-CIO’s Housing Investment Trust said its Detroit Neighborhood Home Repair Program will aim to stabilize neighborhoods over three to five years, using union labor to fix up homes. The arrangement is expected to create about 300 full-time jobs, including apprenticeships for Detroiters hoping for careers in the construction trades.
Under the deal, the Detroit Land Bank Authority will transfer vacant homes to the AFL-CIO trust, which then would rehabilitate the homes and put them up for sale once they’re finished. The city and the union would share in either profits or losses on each house, Mayor Mike Duggan said Monday at a news conference at the city’s Northwest Activities Center.
“We are trying things that haven’t been done before,” said Duggan, flanked by construction trades and union leaders. The AFL-CIO trust will be responsible for rehabbing and selling the homes, and “we’re going to work out an arrangement where we share the upside and the downside, depending on how the costs work out.”
The work in Detroit is a first for the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, which uses pension funding on investments. Eric Price, the trust’s executive vice president, said the group aims to help stabilize neighborhoods, get a return on what it spends in the program, and provide union jobs and training.
“We view this as the first investment hopefully of many,” Price said.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement: “Union workers using union pension money to rebuild homes for working families is the right formula for rebuilding Detroit.”
Duggan said the City Council will be asked to approve transferring the first 25 homes in the program to the trust on Tuesday. The initial round of homes targets four city neighborhoods: Bagley, Shultz, Crary-St. Mary’s and East English Village.
If the first 25 go well, Duggan said, the program will continue and expand to neighborhoods including Grandmont-Rosedale. Detroit is setting aside $900,000 in community block grant funds to cover costs should some homes sell for less than was invested in them.
The AFL-CIO trust said the general contractor for the program will be Detroit-based Jenkins Construction. Groups partnering in the employment and job training aspects include the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council.
The AFL-CIO said the apprentice programs are aimed at providing union construction jobs for Detroit residents, women and people of color in particular.
People interested in apprenticeships can find more information at www.michiganbuildingtrades.org or 313-965-5080.