A new report from Detroit Future City uncovers a problem that could keep many Detroiters from building wealth. In  “Keeping Your Family Home: Addressing the Challenges of Inherited Properties in Detroit.” they found at least 5,500 family-owned properties passed down to another family member, but without legal documentation. 

These properties are called heirs' properties, and the total value of them comes in at about $270 million. For this report, the properties had owners who died between 2014-2022. The current owners may not even be aware that they don't own the property, which can cause problems for them in the future and for the property values of the neighborhood. 

“Homeownership is both an important vehicle for building generational wealth and a place to provide stability for a family” said Anika Goss, DFC CEO. “As Detroit works to grow the middle class and close economic equity gaps, we need a better understanding of how to preserve and increase homeownership, and ‘Keeping Your Family Home’ contains critical data to help stakeholders develop the programming we need.”

The largest concentration of these homes are in the Boynton, Bagley, Aviation Sub and Schaefer 7/8 Lodge neighborhoods. 

“One of the main things we learned from this data is the issue is harmful to everyone – not just those individuals living in heirs’ properties,” said Ashley Williams Clark, DFC Vice President of the Center for Equity, Engagement and Research. “There’s a cascading element to this because when people can’t access the resources needed to keep and maintain their home, that impacts the value of entire neighborhoods.”

Solutions discussed in the report include increasing outreach and education, making the systems more seamless, and connecting heirs to the right resources so they can have a clear title.

The report was developed with support from Data Driven Detroit and the Gilbert Family Foundation, who recently announced plans for manufactured housing in the North Corktown neighborhood.