Initiative to buy thousands of Detroit homes prior to foreclosure sparks controversy

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A Detroit developer with big plans to buy up 25 square miles of property on the city's northwest side.

The goal to keep neighborhoods occupied by avoiding foreclosures and giving renters a path to homeownership. But some say the proposal is too good to be true.

Dominic Rand is buying up homes in the Sandhill neighborhood of Detroit in hopes of helping to build it back up.

"My wife and I just bought two more one around the corner and one that way," said Rand. "(We need to) get people back in these houses because there are so many empty houses. It's unbelievable."

He says he's excited about an initiative by an organization called Home Team to purchase thousands of homes near Eight Mile and Woodward and just east of Telegraph in Detroit that are slated for this year's annual county tax foreclosure auction.

Home Team says it will rehab the homes and help tenants become homeowners.

"We find them a house, like any typical brokerage transaction," said David Prentice, of Home Team. "We have our closing just like normal. The only difference is we have our finance arm go in and evaluate that person's history and what their income is. They find out if they get their final approval or not,  then we close."

David Prentice says the initiative will help end the cycle of home foreclosure from unpaid property taxes.  He says his desire to make a difference comes from his dad losing the family home when he was a teen.

"We were not a wealthy family, we did get foreclosed on," Prentice said. "That's why we got started but it's not why we still do it."

But officials at United Community Housing  Coalition question how much success this plan can achieve and point to other plans that had the same mission, but came up short.

"Paramount Mortgage is one that comes to mind a few years ago," said attorney Ted Phillips. "(They) got 2,000 properties in a couple year period. They got $10 million in the Detroit police and fire pension fund. And when they left a short time later, 90 percent of those were in demolition status."

Fox 2 reached out to City of Detroit officials and was told:

"The city does not support this proposal.  We have a number of serious concerns, primarily about  Home Team Detroit's ability to deliver on such a massive scale with no particular track record to indicate they would be successful.   If they want to start out by becoming a community partner through Detroit Land Bank and show what they can do with up to nine properties, they are welcome to do so."

But Prentice says he will still push to get his initiative support and make a difference in the community

"They are having a different life than they would have because we got involved," said Prentice.