[FULL PRESS CONFERENCE AUDIO POSTED ABOVE]
About half as many homes were tax-foreclosed in Detroit this year as in 2016, officials say. 12,552 houses were tax-foreclosed and eligible to be listed in Wayne County’s online property auction last year. This year, 6,315 homes are eligible because of unpaid property taxes.
At a press conference today, Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree attributed the smaller number, in part, to efforts from the non-profit United Community Housing Coalition and others, that informed home owners about payment options.
“We have almost 36,000 people in payment plans right now,” Sabree said. “And our job, going forward, is to make sure they stay current. We want to keep this number going down.”
According to the Treasurer, adding payment kiosks around the city and reducing the interest rates on late taxes from 18 percent to 6 percent also helped. He says the number of tax-foreclosures in Detroit hasn’t been this low since 2008.
Yet people are still being turned out of their houses because taxes aren’t being paid.
In Detroit, about one in six of the affected properties are home to renters whose landlords didn’t pay the property taxes they owed.
Denise Tanks is one of them. Last April, she received a letter that the house she was living in with her family was facing foreclosure. When she asked her landlord about it, Tanks said “it was drama.” The landlord tried to evict her.
Around this time, Tanks received a knock on her door. It was from a member of United Community Housing Coalition. With the help of their counseling, Tanks was able to avoid being illegally evicted, she started putting rent into an escrow account, and now she is planning to bid on the house so that she can become the homeowner herself.
Speaking at the press conference, she told the crowd, “I get kind of emotional because we needed this home.”
Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan says the issue of landlords not paying taxes needs to be addressed.
“There is an ordinance before Detroit City Council today that will require landlords to be current on their property taxes in order to collect rent,” Duggan said, referring to a measure introduced by Detroit Councilmember Andre Spivey earlier this year.
“I hope City Council acts on it before the end of the year because, if we do that, we’ll continue to see these foreclosures continue to go down,” said Duggan.
Meanwhile, the Wayne County tax-foreclosure auction is currently happening online.
This post was updated 1:45pm, Wednesday, Sept. 20.