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Evictions Loom as Tax Auction Heads into Final Days

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Map via <a href=""> Citylab</a>
Map via Citylab

When we report on the Wayne County tax auction, the largest of its kind in the nation, there are two competing narratives: the vacant, long-abandoned property bought for a song and revitalized, and the family home taken by distant investors leaving homeowners out in the cold. Given the incredibly interest rate tacked on to back taxes—a staggering 18%—it's easy to see how families fall behind and never catch up. Today, the Detroit News offered some shocking numbers related to the auction. In a nutshell:

· 8000 of the homes on the county auction block are occupied
· Last year's auction raised $41 million for the city of Detroit
· Wayne County has foreclosed on 110,000 properties in the last decade
· 22,000 owner-occupied homes were slated for foreclosure and placement in this year's auction, but the county worked out payment plans with the owners
· 10 investors bought 1400 of the homes auctioned last year

There's hope for the poorest owner-occupants facing foreclosure. According to experts interviewed by Citylab, if you meet certain income and home value requirements, you can get a 100 percent exemption from property taxes. One group that helps people apply for this exemption—and that is fighting to make homeowners aware of the exemption at all—is the United Community Housing Coalition. While we love hearing about places like Woods Cathedral and the Jam Handy building going to dedicated new owners who restore them, it's important to consider the real human toll of the tax auction system. Luckily, there are remedies available for some at-risk homeowners, whit for others, the only hope is policy reform.

Photo of Woods Cathedral by Michelle and Chris Gerard

·Mass evictions loom after homes sold off [Detroit News]
·All Wayne County Tax Auction Coverage [Curbed Detroit]
·How Detroit's Foreclosure Auction Fails Homeowners [Citylab]
·Curbed Exclusive Photographs of Woods Cathedral Renovation [Curbed Detroit]
·Programs [United Community Housing Coalition]