Beauford fled Detroit for the suburbs 13 years ago to escape the poor school system. She thinks many current firefighters and police officers with school-age children probably would feel the same way.
"Honestly there is not anything they can offer me to move back unless the educational system is a lot better than what it is," said 53-year-old Beauford (pictured), who became a licensed real estate agent in 2002 after a severe job injury forced her to leave the fire department in 1998.
In a pilot program dubbed Project 14, the city of Detroit plans to tap federal stimulus funds to renovate up to 200 abandoned houses in the Boston-Edison and East English Village neighborhoods. Then it will offer those homes for sale in a deal meant to lure Detroit's law enforcement officials to move in from the suburbs and to live in the urban neighborhoods they patrol.
Detroit mayor Dave Bing said he hopes the plan will hinder crime and create a better relationship between cops and residents. "We hope this serves as a call to action for other corporations, organizations and individuals to live where they work," Bing said. "Detroiters want to live in safe, clean neighborhoods. They deserve nothing less."
Angela Beauford says the neighborhoods Mayor Bing is targeting for the project are nice areas of the city, but Detroit's ailing public school system is what drove her to the suburb of Farmington Hills more than a decade ago when her youngest child, now a high schooler, entered Kindergarten.
Safe neighborhoods are definitely what many residents hope for in this town that was once known as Murder City.
"I'm scared to death every night," Francis Moore, who lives in southeast Detroit, told the Detroit Free Press. The 62-year-old said she believes having officers reside in more dangerous areas would make a bigger dent on crime.
Officers who want in on Project 14 are eligible for up to $25,000 to pay for the down payment, and their loans can be forgiven based on their income and the cost of the house, reports the Detroit News. An officer who sells the house before an unspecified time period must sell it to another eligible family or pay back the remaining balance of the loan.
The city plans to use up to $150,000 per abandoned house it renovates, as well as for future incentives. The program will be funded by $30 million of the $41 million the city received under the HUD-administered Neighborhood Stabilization Program, a program to revitalize neighborhoods. The federal grant pays for the renovations, down payments and forgivable loans. (The other $11 million is earmarked for The Detroit Works Project, which helps lower-income residents buy houses.)
Realtor James Silver of Keller Williams Troy, who has bought, sold and even personally invested in and renovated homes within Detroit's city limits, told AOL Real Estate that if one includes a new roof, it should not cost more than $30,000 or $40,000 to renovate some of these homes, which are mostly 1920s through 1940s bungalow-style homes currently with sale prices of $10,000 and less. (See pictures below of the type of homes that could be targeted by the mayor's plan.)
Homes are that cheap because "probably half the neighborhoods have been foreclosed on at some point or another," he said. "Recently, if anyone has a mortgage on them they are pretty much upside down now.
"The houses are definitely a lot more affordable than in the suburbs. The homes in the suburbs are half as expensive as they were a few years ago," he said, adding that some in the city may or may not have back property taxes that will need to be paid by the buyer. The low prices in the city are attracting buyers. "I'm selling homes here, there are just a lot of them on the market."
A potential buyer is Officer LaDawn Russell, who works in the department's 12th Precinct. She moved out of Detroit to Oak Park in 2007, in part, because of concerns with safety for her children, reported the Detroit Free Press. But the 30-year-old said she's considering a move back to East English Village, where she grew up.
Currently, 53 percent of Detroit police officers commute to work from the suburbs, and Bing says the number is even higher for firefighters. Many other major cities are not in this predicament because they require their officers and some other government officials to reside within the city limits if they want to work for the city. (Rahm Emanuel may never have had his residency questioned in Chicago if the laws were more lax there).
Detroit used to have such a law, but it nixed it about a dozen years ago. It was 1999 when the state legislature revoked an 80-year-old law that made residency mandatory for municipal employees. The change gained support however, given the city's high insurance rates, rampant crime and poorly performing schools.
Despite the numbers, some think moving the police back to the city can turn things around.
"I like Mayor Bing's Project 14 because it potentially accomplishes two positive things: One, it provides a small measure of 'foothold' in terms of real estate stability -- and no matter how small that turns out to be, it will help," Michael McClure, president-CEO of Professional One Real Estate told AOL Real Estate. "Two, it gives those law enforcement personnel a larger incentive to care about the overall quality of life in the City of Detroit. What the City needs is an influx of caring residents. Project 14 would clearly help on that level."
"If there are police officers willing to buy into that [project] that will be a good thing for the city," says Beauford of World Class Realty, "but I also think you have to have all the entities in place and not just the homes, but the school and the grocery stores...the things that will make the neighborhood be a good neighborhood."
Size: 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1,000 square feet
Size: 4 bedrooms, 1 bath; 1,968 square feet
Size: 3 bedrooms, 1 baths; 1150 square feet
Size: 3 bedrooms, 1 bath; 1,000 square feet
Size: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths; 1,398 square feet
Sheree R. Curry, who has owned three homes and grew up in a major inner city, is a three-time award-winning journalist who has covered real estate for six years. During her 20-year career, her articles have appeared regularly in the Wall Street Journal, TV Week, and Fortune. She's been writing for AOL Real Estate since 2009 from a Minneapolis-area rental. She seeks a book publisher -- or at least a lender who'll give a reasonable mortgage rate to a self-employed mom.
For more on home prices and related topics see these AOL Real Estate guides:
- How to Price a Home to Sell Fast
- Home Appraisals for Sellers
- How to Sell Your Home in a Short Sale
- How to Buy Foreclosures