The Cass Community Social Services (CCSS) Tiny Homes program advertised itself as a means for low-income Detroit residents to own a home. Community members believed that they were a part of a rent-to-own program. The program told participants that they would pay $1 per square foot of a tiny home each month. The CCSS website states, “At first, the residents will rent the homes. Anyone who remains for seven years will be given the opportunity to own the home and property.” Taura Brown, resident, and a donor, was stunned to learn that Rev. Faith Fowler, Executive Director, and CCSS would be reneging on their original terms, and she would not be a homeowner. Instead, she was being evicted.
Earlier this year at a meeting with Tiny Homes residents, Rev. Fowler announced that she would be evicting a resident because he had his bike stolen, his home broken into and had a car repossessed. The resident spoke up for himself and Taura backed him up that a resident being robbed is not a cause for eviction. Fowler ended up dropping the eviction of the four-year resident and instead is moving to evict Taura Brown. Fowler and her lawyer claim they don’t need cause to evict, and they can do whatever they want to the residents. Truth is they are retaliating against Brown because she spoke up, told residents their rights, and opposed Fowler trying to run things like a dictator. Taura and every resident has the right to speak up and join together to defend their interests and their rights.
Brown was diagnosed with stage five kidney disease and, after becoming disabled, began looking for affordable living options. Brown, like other residents, decided to join the program believing that she would eventually own her home. Though she says the program was flawed, they have now gone too far.
Taura has been vocal about her concerns with staff but has seen no effort to make improvements. The Tiny Homes neighborhood has dealt with issues of crime in the neighborhood, invasion of residents’ privacy, fair housing violations, fiscal irresponsibility, and unfair treatment among residents. Before Taura was accepted into the Tiny Home program, she had to be interviewed by all the Tiny Home residents. None of the white residents have had to go through this process. This is just one example of the institutional racism that Fowler is embedding into the program. Taura has never been late with rent, has met all the program requirements, but is facing eviction. This is clear retaliation.
To date, not a single resident has received a title or land contract that the CCSS program advertised. Reverend Faith Fowler told residents that they are just renters and do not own the property. All residents of the Tiny Homes deserve safe, fair housing, and for CCSS to put in writing that residents will get the deed to their homes after 7 years as promised. This is something common we are seeing in Detroit – developers, non-profits, and opportunistic pastors advertising low-income housing or a program to provide homeownership, but they don’t deliver. They cash in, and create more housing instability. As Taura says, “Faith Fowler is claiming to create opportunities for homeless people, but she clearly has no problem creating homelessness!”