Freep investigation ends controversial Action Before Auction program 

click to enlarge A row of dilapidated houses at Crane and Charlevoix on Detroit’s east side. Eleven houses on this block have been foreclosed since 2002. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • A row of dilapidated houses at Crane and Charlevoix on Detroit’s east side. Eleven houses on this block have been foreclosed since 2002.

Wayne County is ending its controversial Action Before Auction program after the Detroit Free Press exposed favoritism and other problems related to the sale of tax-foreclosed properties.

"The County and Land Bank are not continuing the Action Before Auction pilot this year," Jim Martinez, a spokesman for the county, told the paper. "We are evaluating the impact of the pilot program over the past two years. That evaluation will inform any decision on how to proceed in coming years with that program, but we are looking at ways to improve or change the auction."

Wayne County branded the program as a novel way to stop speculation and blight, but it was anything but.

Every year, the county holds auctions for foreclosed houses. For years, many of the buyers sat on the properties and failed to pay property tax. It created a cycle of blight that drove down property values and attracted arsonists.

To end this cycle, the county in 2017 launched the Action Before Auction program, which enabled officials to sell foreclosed homes to handpicked developers without bids. But the Free Press found the program enriched developers, who bought the properties for pennies on the dollar and still neglected many of the homes, many of which had been occupied.

Beginning this year, favored developers will now have to bid on the foreclosed properties like everyone else.

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