The Rocket Community Fund announced a collaboration with Experian that will enable the organization to pivot from its door-to-door outreach by calling 50,000 Detroit homeowners at risk of tax foreclosure through Neighbor to Neighbor, the organization’s flagship housing stability program. This new approach will increase the program’s efficacy while also reducing the time traditionally spent canvassing door-to-door.
The Rocket Community Fund’s annual census of tax delinquent properties will also begin gathering additional data during surveying, so that it may holistically understand the residents’ current needs for home repairs and inform future interventions.
Neighbor to Neighbor reaches out to those at risk of tax foreclosure in order to connect families with available resources, while simultaneously collecting data to support systemic change. Between 2015 and 2019, this annual campaign, other philanthropic investments and the work of critical partners have collectively achieved a 94% reduction in the number of occupied homes entering the Wayne County Tax Auction. The auction was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID-19.
“The Rocket Community Fund is obsessed with finding a better way to ensure that all Detroiters have access to a stable home,” said Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund, in a statement. “The ongoing pandemic has pushed us to find new ways of creatively reaching Detroiters in order to support them and collect data around their changing needs. Thanks to the collaboration with Experian, this year’s Neighbor to Neighbor does just that.”
Neighbor to Neighbor traditionally conducts a door-to-door campaign with the goal of aiding residents in obtaining a property tax exemption through the Homeowner Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP), now HomeOwners Property Exemption (HOPE). This year’s survey will also include more extensive questions about home repair needs.
To pivot tactics of community outreach during the pandemic to make it safer and more efficient, the Rocket Community Fund teamed with Experian, who provided contact information associated with residents, many of whom have been financially impacted by the pandemic.
“We recognize the pandemic has taken its toll on consumers across the country, and we’re committed to empowering and protecting those communities that are most impacted,” said Genevieve Juillard, president of Experian Marketing Services and Data Quality, in a statement. “Working alongside the Rocket Community Fund gives us an opportunity to help and serve these consumers, but more importantly, provide them with the resources needed to have confident, stable housing.”
The Rocket Community Fund will also underwrite the costs for nonprofit partners to hire 20 full-time phone canvassers, who will make $20 per hour over the course of the campaign, which is expected to last eight to 12 weeks.
This year’s campaign is part of an ongoing, $500 million joint philanthropic commitment between the Rocket Community Fund and Gilbert Family Foundation. The Rocket Community Fund is the philanthropic partner of Rocket Companies, while the Gilbert Family Foundation is the personal foundation of Dan and Jennifer Gilbert.
“The Rocket Community Fund and its Neighbor to Neighbor partners continue doing an outstanding job helping Detroiters stay in their homes by connecting them to property tax exemptions through our HOPE program,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. “This new partnership with Experian will allow us to connect with more residents who need tax relief, and may have home repair needs, as part of our ongoing work to strengthen neighborhoods.”
In 2020, the Rocket Community Fund invested $1 million into the City of Detroit’s 0% interest home repair loan program after 38% of Neighbor to Neighbor respondents indicated their structures needed critical maintenance. The organization is also donating the costs of a call center for the City’s Renew Detroit home repair program.
The 2019 Neighbor to Neighbor survey—the last city-wide canvas the Rocket Community Fund conducted—saw residents identify significant repair needs, with 38% stating their structures need critical maintenance.
The Rocket Community Fund recently launched Neighbor to Neighbor in Cleveland alongside Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and the Cleveland Foundation.
This year, a record 13,000 individuals have enrolled in HOPE. Detroit homeowners with back taxes who have enrolled in HOPE and the Pay as You Stay program (PAYS) are automatically eligible for support from the Detroit Tax Relief Fund, which eliminates property tax debt owed by low-income homeowners. The Detroit Tax Relief Fund is a Gilbert Family Foundation program administered by the Wayne Metro Community Action Agency. This fund has paid off the tax debt of more than 2,000 Detroit families with thousands more to come.
For more information, please visit www.rocketcommunityfund.org.