Rocket Volunteers
Volunteers from Rocket Companies went door to door to canvas for homeowners delinquent on their taxes.

The Gilbert Family Foundation will contribute $350 million, and the Rocket Community Fund will invest $150 million.

Today at One Campus Martius, home of Rocket Mortgage, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert announced that their Gilbert Family Foundation, along with the Rocket Community Fund, were pledging $500 million to aid citizens of Detroit over the next 10 years. The Gilbert Family Foundation will contribute $350 million, and the Rocket Community Fund will invest $150 million.

Dan Gilbert
Dan Gilbert

The first allocation of $15 million will pay off the property tax debt of 20,000 low-income Detroit homeowners. In doing so, the Foundation will assist in preserving an estimated $400 million in wealth and home equity in Detroit.

The initial investment will establish the Detroit Tax Relief Fund, which will be administered by Detroit nonprofit Wayne Metro Community Action Agency. Upon confirmation of eligibility, Wayne Metro will pay the remaining delinquent tax burden on behalf of residents.

Along with Dan and Jennifer Gilbert, Rocket Companies CEO Jay Farner, Rocket Community Fund Vice President Laura Grannemann, Gilbert Family Foundation Executive Director Joyce Keller, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Wayne County Executive Warren Evans were on hand to announce the good news.

A Systemic Problem

Rocket Companies Chairman Dan Gilbert has been a proponent of addressing housing stability since chairing the Detroit Blight Removal Tax Force in 2013. His organizations’ philanthropic strategy in housing stability and other Detroit-based efforts has been guided by Laura Grannemann, vice president of the Rocket Community Fund. It was then he realized one of the main causes of blight is home foreclosure.

Jennifer Gilbert
Jennifer Gilbert

“This unparalleled commitment builds off of the work we have done over the past several years and scales it in a way that will allow us to continue addressing issues that have been facing Detroiters for generations alongside the Gilbert Family Foundation,” Grannemann said.

During the Rocket Community Fund’s 2019 citywide canvas of tax delinquent properties through Neighbor to Neighbor — a door-to-door effort — the organization discovered nearly 90% of Detroit homeowners behind on their property taxes should have been able to qualify for relief but were not aware of the programs available to them or were unsure of how to apply.

According to Gilbert, much of the back property taxes owed came from penalties and interest, leaving homeowners in a cycle of debt and uncertainty about their ability to stay in their homes. “The problem was systemic and generational,” he said.

“Everyone deserves to achieve the American dream of homeownership, and that includes the ability to sustainably and permanently enjoy the home you make for yourself, your family and your loved ones,” said Gilbert, who added that home ownership is the main way most Americans build wealth and economic mobility.

‘Bigger Solutions’

Over the course of 2020, Gilbert Family Foundation cofounder Jennifer Gilbert held focus groups with Detroit leaders and residents to better understand the challenges they face. Two themes emerged: Detroiters are resilient, and Detroiters need greater access to opportunity.

“Big problems require even bigger solutions that address the symptoms as well as the systems that have contributed to the challenges Detroit continues to face,” Jennifer Gilbert said. “We look forward to working with existing and future partners to drive systemic change in Detroit.”

The Gilberts stressed the important role played by their employees whose work resulted in the ability to redistribute wealth to make an impact on the lives of others — a mission of Rocket Companies.

When asked why now for announcing the program, the Gilberts said that they were confident the necessary partnerships, policies and programs were in place to make the program a success.

Following the first initiative, Jennifer Gilbert said the Gilbert Family Foundation plans to remain connected to the homeowners supported through the Detroit Tax Relief Fund to help shape future investments in economic opportunity and mobility. Further investments will be focused on their community priorities and may include digital equity, home repair needs, employment opportunities and other areas. The Gilbert Family Foundation also remains committed to supporting efforts to cure neurofibromatosis, a nervous system disorder.

“The greatest resource of any community is its people, and we are honored to be able to invest in removing this tax burden, which will build a stronger foundation for Detroit families to thrive,” Gilbert said.

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