Detroit city councilmember has two blighted homes in one block

- The first time I asked Detroit City Councilwoman Raquel Castaneda-Lopez why she didn't fix up her dilapidated home, she said it was because she used her $78,000 city salary to pay student loans, support her family and "fulfilling other financial responsibilities."

Castaneda-Lopez, who is single and has several adult siblings, would not say what those other financial responsibilities are.

So I kept digging. And I discovered that in 2015 the councilwoman spent $30,000 to buy a rental property just down the street from her Southwest Detroit home. The two-family home's previous owner said Castaneda-Lopez purchased the vacant building with a lump sum payment of $30,000.

I asked the councilwoman why she didn't mention that expenditure the last time we spoke. She did not answer, saying only:

"I saved for years and used my retirement money to buy the house. I thought I'd be able to fix it up quickly, but it has been very hard to get financing for improvements. This is a challenge many homeowners face given the low property values in the city.

"This house is my dream home and while the road has been difficult, I will fulfill my dream and make this house my home. I'm not giving up and believe I'll be able to finish in the near" future.

The councilwoman may have less time than she thinks.

In 2015, the Detroit Land Bank posted a notice on the home warning the owner to come forward or face legal action. Castaneda-Lopez contacted the land bank and agreed to clean up the property and make repairs to its exterior.

Those actions staved off a potential nuisance abatement lawsuit that could have resulted in the councilwoman losing the home to the land bank, which cracks down on derelict property owners. It is not clear whether she made all of the required repairs.

Now Castaneda-Lopez's challenge will be making the repairs her city says need to be made to her home as well as fixing up her dream home down the street.

She estimated that the required repairs to her home will cost more than $10,000.

It is not clear how much it will cost to bring her rental property up to code. Last month, the city told her she must address six violations of city code. They range from repairing or replacing sagging soffits and porches to replacing defective roofing material to repairing and replacing gutters and window glass.

My investigation found that during the period the councilwoman said she didn't have money to fix up her home, she was spending thousands of dollars on other matters.

In a statement to FOX 2, Lopez said:

“In response to your question about 1559 Clark, I saved for years and used my retirement money to buy the house.

I thought I’d be able to fix it up quickly but it has been very hard to get financing for improvements. This is a challenge many homeowners face given the low property values in the city. The fact that you can’t find a mortgage should be strong evidence of how hard it’s been to get financing.

This house is my dream home and while the road has been difficult, I will fulfill my dream and make this house my home. I’m not giving up and believe I’ll be able to finish the job in the near future.

I love my community and neighbors and want both my grandmother’s home and my own to be welcoming for everyone in the neighborhood.

Maintaining several households, while paying back student loans and saving for repairs is hard. But I take responsibility for my home and I am confident I can get it done.”

To learn more about that, watch my latest exclusive investigation for Fox 2 News.

Contact M.L. Elrick at ml.elrick@foxtv.com or 248-552-5261. Follow him on Facebook at "ML Elrick," on Twitter @elrick or on Instagram at "ml_elrick." 

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