Local housing activists will convene prior to Detroit City Council's meeting on Tuesday for a rally and press conference where it's expected they'll call for a moratorium on property tax foreclosures in the city.
At 9 a.m. Tuesday, the Detroit Eviction Defense coalition will meet at the Spirt of Detroit statue outside the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, located at 2 Woodward Avenue in Detroit. The rally, scheduled ahead of the council's 10 a.m. meeting, will highlight a resolution put forth by the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, which calls for a moratorium on foreclosures in Detroit "for one year to allow the government to develop a fair, equitable and comprehensive plan to deal with unfair tax burdens and delinquent taxes."
Officials with Wayne County say about 62,000 city properties are currently engaged in the foreclosure process; about 28,000 of those are owned by those who reside in them, including so-called "reverter" properties — those sold in recent tax foreclosure auctions to individuals who have yet to pay taxes, so they are returned to the county.
A number of state laws passed late last year launched new programs to allow homeowners to enter into plans to pay past due taxes at a reduced interest rate of 6 percent, rather than 18 percent. In addition, back taxes can be paid over the course of five years. Anyone looking to take advantage of the programs must do so by March 31, the city says.
But it's not enough, if you ask the Detroit Eviction Defense coalition.
The coalition says a petition with "thousands of signatures calling for the County Treasurer to pull owner-occupants from foreclosure" is expected to be presented to the council. Anyone who is affected directly by the imminent wave of foreclosures should speak during public comment at the meeting, the coalition says.
Errol Jennings, president of the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association, highlighted the need for greater measures in a letter sent earlier this month to local, state, and federal officials.
"This crisis affects over 100,000 residents, or nearly one-fifth of the population, who may be forced to leave their family homes," Jennings wrote in the letter, dated March 15. "This is a crisis! Russell Woods has 300 homes subject to foreclosure. This is one-third of our neighborhood and this amount could send a shockwave of blight, crime, and crash our already low home values."
Following the council meeting, a march to the Wayne County Treasurer's Office is planned.
You can read the Russell Woods-Sullivan Area Association's resolution below:
Resolution to be presented to Council:
HISTORIC RUSSELL WOODS
SULLIVAN AREA ASSOCIATION
Detroit P.O. Box 38830, MI 48238
RESOLUTION #2015-03-01 MARCH 13, 2015
STOP THE FORECLOSURES
Whereas: We, the people, of RSWAA and citizens of the city of Detroit, Wayne County and the state of Michigan do here by demand that a moratorium be placed on all Tax Foreclosures for a minimum of one year to allow our government to develop a comprehensive plan to address the extraordinary and devastating number of foreclosures that are slated to occur in 2015. It is critically important that our government consider the implementation of the people’s recommendations placed in this resolution to deal with this problem of tax foreclosures that has reached catastrophic proportions.
Whereas: The RWSAA is extremely concerned about the tax foreclosure crisis that is threatening to overwhelm the quality of life and neighborhood stability in the city of Detroit for many, many years into our future. There are 62,000 properties headed to tax foreclosure in 2015 citywide and 300 properties in the Russell Woods Sullivan Area. More than 30,000 properties will go to a tax foreclosure Auction to be sold for $500.00 or to the highest bidder if nothing is done in the interim.
Whereas: More than 100,000 residents of Detroit could potentially be displaced; that is the equivalent of 1/6 of the city’s population. This would be devastating to those families that are forced to leave their homes. It will be equally horrific for those families that have paid their taxes and will continue to be residents of the city because of the blighted conditions that follow the unprecedented number of foreclosures. Those vacant and abandoned properties become warehouses for squatters and crime magnets as gang member hangouts, and for narcotic dealers, sexual assaults and burglars. All of these factors dramatically impact lowering property values and create a downward spiral of the quality of life in every neighborhood that these tax foreclosures occur.
Whereas: We, the people, implore our government at every level, local, county, state and federal to establish economic justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for our common defense, promote the general welfare and to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
Whereas: The Wayne County Tax Assessor and the City of Detroit Assessor by virtue of the Michigan General Property Tax Law are responsible for appraising residential and commercial property for the assessment and equalization purposes which include the compilations and analysis of sales, cost, and income data related to property valuation. This analysis according to the law should be completed every five years. It is well known to our government officials that this analysis has not been completed in more than 20 years. This makes the government in non-compliance with the law which has subsequently had an extremely adverse effect on all property owners’ tax bill each of those 20 years.
Whereas: The financial crisis that began in 2002 after some years of targeted predatory lending practices also contributed to the collapse of property values in the city of Detroit. Moreover, the city of Detroit and Wayne County Assessor’s Offices have used these artificially inflated property values to place unfair property tax assessments on property owners’ for more than 13 years.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT ‘WE, THE PEOPLE,’ of Russell Woods Sullivan Area Association, in the city of Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan do hereby submit to each of the four government entities our demands for action by way of our elected representatives: Detroit Councilman Gabe Leland; Wayne County Commissioner Irma Clark-Coleman; State Senator Virgil K. Smith; Michigan House of Representatives Fred Durhal III; Mayor Mike Duggan; Wayne County Executive Warren Evans; Governor Rick Snyder; Congressman John Conyers; Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence; U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow; and U.S. Senator Gary Peters.
We, the People, Demand:
- That a moratorium be enacted on all tax foreclosures for one year to allow the government to develop a fair, equitable and comprehensive plan to deal with unfair tax burdens and delinquent taxes.
- That the Wayne County Assessor and the City of Detroit Assessor shall complete their lawful duties and responsibilities of an Assessment and Appraisal of all properties in the RWSAA and the city of Detroit before the end of a self-imposed moratorium on tax foreclosures.
- That it is imperative that all onerous penalties for the delinquent payments of property taxes be stopped immediately and a moratorium imposed for one year.
- That the Detroit City Assessor office allow two months instead of two weeks for property owners in the largest city in the state of Michigan to challenge their SEV assessments.
- That the city of Detroit Council and Mayor commission and pay for a study to be done to determine the adverse impacts of these unfair and unjust SEV Tax Assessments from 2002 to 2015 and to make recommendations as to what should be done to make the tax payers’ whole, such as; [how much money should be refunded to property tax payers?]
- That more programs be enacted that eliminate the onerous back taxes and penalties and allows property owners to start fresh.