Protests demand end to Detroit home tax foreclosures

Two demonstrations in Detroit have demanded an end to the massive number of home tax foreclosures going on in the city and county. On March 20, protesters targeted the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office located in Greektown in downtown Detroit. On March 21, the site was the State of Michigan Building in the New Center area, outside the Michigan State Housing Development Authority offices.

The protests, organized by Detroit Eviction Defense, demanded that Wayne County implement an immediate moratorium or halt on all tax foreclosures, and that MSHDA immediately release funds from the federal “Hardest Hit Homeowner” program.

The state is sitting on $204 million from the Hardest Hit program. These funds are supposed to be utilized to pay off delinquent property tax bills of up to $30,000 for individual homeowners facing tax foreclosures. With these funds available, organizers say, there is no excuse for any homeowner to lose their home to tax foreclosure.

Anti-foreclosure and anti-eviction activists also want Wayne County to place an immediate moratorium on all tax foreclosures of occupied homes, giving a reprieve for homeowners so that they have an opportunity to apply for the state’s  Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner funds.

Residents of the city of Detroit are currently living under a state-imposed emergency financial manager who is responsible for paying off the debt and debt service to the same banks and financial institutions that have ruined the city with mortgage foreclosures, organizers say.

Demonstrations demand fund disbursement

A press release issued prior to the demonstrations stated in part:

“We will be demanding that the Michigan Homeowner Assistance Nonprofit Housing Corporation and … MSHDA drop all regulations that stand in the way of these funds getting immediately disbursed. MSHDA bureaucrats have sat on hundreds of millions of dollars in Helping Hardest Hit Homeowner funds, rather than using them to save thousands of homes, since the program was initiated in 2010.”

Organizers explained why this is so necessary:

“Every taxpayer pays for tax foreclosures. After a home is foreclosed, especially in Detroit, the county sells it for a fraction of what is owed, usually to an investment company. The difference in the purchase price (say $500) and the amount owed (say $3,000) is charged back to the city of Detroit. This year alone the city of Detroit is paying over $80 million in chargebacks on tax foreclosures.

“Stopping tax foreclosures and fighting to get the federal Hardest Hit Homeowner funds released will save the city of Detroit tens of millions of dollars, aiding homeowners, stabilizing communities and helping to eliminate the city deficit.”

Jerry Goldberg, of the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shutoffs and one of the protests’ organizers, told Workers World: “According to a recent Detroit Free Press article, approximately 48 percent of unpaid property taxes in Wayne County are on homes that banks took through mortgage foreclosures. Most tax-foreclosed homes are being bought up by investors, who descend on Detroit to pick up properties for next to nothing at tax auctions.

“Then, when homeowners try to repurchase their home,” Goldberg continued, “these investors charge an exorbitant amount to make a quick profit off the people’s financial misery. Or these investors never pay the property taxes, then sell the homes to unsuspecting buyers who then go into tax foreclosure with huge back bills.”

Goldberg concluded, “Rather than foreclosing on homeowners, Wayne County and the city of Detroit, along with its newly imposed emergency financial manager, should go after the deadbeat banks and greed-driven investors to pay the property taxes on homes they stole from the people through their fraudulent practices.”

To get involved in this struggle, contact Detroit Eviction Defense at 313-680-5508 or visit moratorium-mi.org or peoplebeforebanks.org.