DETROIT HISTORIC DISTRICT COMMISSION FAQ

The Detroit Historic District Commission is a city agency that was formed by Detroit Ordinance 161-H in 1976. Its purpose is to ensure the preservation of historically and culturally significant areas of the City which are designated by the City Council as Historic Districts.

It is the Commission's job to ensure that changes proposed in historic districts preserve important historic characteristics and are compatible with the historic buildings. When proposing a change to the exterior of a property such as landscaping, paint colors, windows, or doors the homeowner or contractor submits an application for building permit to the Commission for review. If the work is appropriate the Commission (or the Commission's staff) will issue a certificate of appropriateness which allows the Buildings and Safety Engineering Department to issue a building permit.

Application forms and guidelines are available online at the Detroit Historic District Commission's website. Also see the HDC brochure, What you need to know....


What Are The Rules For Living in a Detroit Historic District?

Detroit's Historic Districts are wonderful places to live, and you can take part in saving Detroit's history for future generations. The buildings and landscaping are all important in a historic district and the Detroit Historic District Commission regulates changes to be sure the historic character is preserved. 

As a homeowner you do have an added responsibility. All exterior changes to your house, including painting, fencing, roof replacement, and other types of changes must be approved by the Commission. Homeowners who wish to make exterior changes to their house must obtain permission from the Commission (see the Detroit Historic District Commission Guidelines and Procedures).


What Can I Do to the Inside of My House?

The Commission does not regulate changes to the interior of a house, unless the interior change affects the exterior experience. 


How Do I Know What Colors to Paint My House?

The Commission has a publication called Detroit Historic Districts Style and Color Guide that gives the acceptable colors depending on the style of the house. Color charts and instructions are provided by the Commission staff. The Paint and Color Guidelines, as well as the complete Individual Color Systems, are available on the HDC's website.


Does the Commission Review What I Do to the Back of My House?

The Commission is required to review all exterior changes, including those not visible from the street. The entire house, garage and yard contribute to the historic character of the district.


How Does the Commision Decide Whether to Approve My Project?

The Commission is required to use The Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Rehabilitation and Guidelines for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings when deciding whether work is appropriate in a historic district.


Do I Need to Use an Approved Contractor?

No, neither the Detroit Historic District Commission nor the Historic Boston-Edison Association approves contractors. You can use any contractor you wish, or do the work yourself. However, it is ultimately the homeowner's responsibility to make sure the work done conforms to guidelines. Ask your contractor is he has experience working in Historic Districts. For a list of contractors suggested by neighbors in Boston-Edison, see the Preferred Contractor List. These lists are provided as a convenience and are not an endorsement.


How Can I Find Out More?

More information on Commission guidelines and procedures is on the Historic District Commission Guidelines and Procedures page or contact HBEA with a question.

Or, go to the source and contact the Commission's Staff:
Jennifer Ross - (313) 224-8907 or rossj@detroitmi.gov
Audra Dye - (313) 224-6543 or dyea@detroitmi.gov

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