Detroit is rolling out the welcome mat for potential LGBT home buyers by hosting the city's first LGBT & Friends Home Tour Event on Sept. 28 in the Seven Mile and Livernois section of the city.
The LGBT & Friends Home Tour, organized by the Next Detroit Neighborhood Initiative, is intended to attract LGBT people to one of the historic and more beautiful sections of the city including the Palmer Woods, Green Acres, Sherwood Forest and Bagley neighborhoods.
Dale Morgan, chair of the LGBT & Friends Home Tour committee, owns two homes in the area. He and his partner, Norm Silk, live in their Palmer Park home and are renovating a historical landmark property on Seven Mile Rd., the only one in Detroit designed by the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright.
Morgan noted that the property prices in Detroit are low, offering terrific real estate investment opportunities for the discerning buyer. "If you buy an affordable home, you can spend a lot on other things – travel, clothes, decorating," said Morgan. "And in this area you get to live in a cool neighborhood with some really cool people."
Brad Dick, the LGBT liaison to the Detroit Mayor's office and a member of the LGBT & Friends Home Tour committee, said that the Neighborhood Enterprise Zones in Detroit also offer some exceptional tax breaks. He said that the NEZ project, which started three years ago, allows homeowners who purchased their homes after 1996 to get up to a 30-percent tax break, which reduces the net millage on their property to about what is found in the area suburbs. Dick said this is an important benefit because many people fear that living in Detorit will result in higher real estate taxes. "This effectively negates one of the first objections I hear – taxes – when people tell me they aren't interested in living in Detroit," he said.
"We hope to attract real estate agents and investors, too," said Dick, "because they will appreciate the beauty of some of the homes, and they will understand the valuable historical tax credits and the NEZ and how they will benefit any potential buyers in these neighborhoods."
Monica Smith is Next Detroit's senior community manager. She said she hopes to attract young, new homeowners and renters to the neighborhoods in northwest Detroit.
"The diversity in these neighborhoods is wonderful. And for many people, they will be living a lot closer to work, saving time and money commuting," said Smith, who also noted that these areas of Detroit all are serviced with underground power lines. "There aren't any ugly wires hanging overhead, like you see in so many areas outside the city."
"If we intend to create a new Detroit, then LGBT people must feel welcome," said James Canning, spokesperson for the outgoing Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Next Detroit was originally created in 2007 as an initiative of the mayor's office to spur economic and community development in six specific neighborhoods: Osborn, East English Village, Grand River and Greenfield, Brightmoor, the North End and the area that the LGBT & Friends Home Tour will feature – the Seven Mile & Livernois neighborhood.
Several committee members acknowledged that Detroit's image is a negative when they try to promote the city as an attractive place to live and work.
"Like all cities there are challenges," admitted Morgan. "But people have the opportunity now to get into Detroit at the ground level. The riverfront, Palmer Park and many neighborhoods will be untouchable in ten years. For those with a thick skin and some patience, Detroit offers the perfect place to invest."
The LGBT & Friends Hour Tour will start at 2 p.m. at the Detroit Golf Club on Seven Mile Rd. just west of Woodward Ave., and end there at 6 p.m. for an afterglow cocktail party. Tickets are $20 and include the tour and afterglow, and are available at http://www.lgbtevent.eventbrite.com and the day of the event at the Detroit Golf Club. Representatives from the City of Assessor's Office, realtors, lenders, Preservation Wayne and others will be on hand to answer questions.