Flint, MI — Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley is proposing the city spend a portion of its American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds on legal services for residents facing eviction or foreclosure.
The mayor announced the proposal after news surfaced of a Genesee County public auction that sold 230 foreclosed, occupied homes to a developer in mid-September.
Of those homes, 190 fall within the city of Flint’s borders.
“I’ve ordered a resolution that we prepared that’s going to be presented to City Council on Monday for $50,000 to be able to provide a level of legal resources for families,” Neeley explained at an Oct. 20, 2023 press conference. “But this will be an ongoing process so we’ll be able to establish pre- and post- help for families that may be going into foreclosure or coming out on the other side.”
According to local news reports, residents at those properties “received letters from the investor group,” called To Life Real Estate LLC, “just two weeks after the auction sale, advising them to contact the company within seven days about rental options or to prepare for eviction.” An agent for To Life Real Estate LLC could not be reached for comment by press time.
“Though this action wasn’t taken by the city of Flint, these are Flint families,” Neeley said in explanation of the resolution to come before city council, which will allocate $50,000 of the city’s ARPA funding to Legal Services of Eastern Michigan (LSEM) “to provide legal outreach and assistance to City of Flint residents in need of legal assistance who are facing foreclosure or eviction.”
The city did not provide a copy of the proposal upon Flint Beat’s request, only the resolution language that referred to it, but Neeley implied that funding within it would be prioritized for services to the 190 Flint families who may now face eviction under the investor group.
Jill Nylander, executive director of LSEM, said she appreciated the opportunity to partner with Flint to help the recently impacted households, noting that foreclosure support was “at the core” of her organization’s housing work.
“Having to move involuntarily is overwhelming in any situation. This current process is one that we think that we can work with the city around to help Genesee County residents — and more specifically with this assistance, support city of Flint residents — to understand and be advised about their rights and their responsibilities and other available resources that might be able to be available to them to help bridge this situation,” Nylander said at the press conference.
She added that LSEM would provide education and advice to make sure those residents “moving into a new tenancy situation” have their rights protected and “nothing illegal” goes on through that process.
When asked if he would consider spending other city funds on the resolution, such as Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) dollars, should the council continue to deny ARPA funding requests over process concerns, the mayor said he was “optimistic” about this resolution.
“What we gonna do is we gonna be optimistic that council can put aside its differences with one another, or whatever that may be, that caused them stalling … and they will move this forward,” he said. “So this is the option before them right now. And then, this is the best option that we have to be able to not interrupt any other funding streams that we currently have.”
The mayor’s resolution first came before council’s finance committee on Oct. 18, where it was voted through to the body’s special affairs meeting.
That meeting is set to convene on Monday, Oct. 23, 2023 at 4:30 p.m.