Detroit homeowners who struggle to pay their property taxes and are at risk of foreclosure have until next Monday to apply for a 2021 property tax exemption.
The city and nonprofit partners are hosting in-person events this week to help residents apply for Detroit’s Homeowners Property Exemption, or HOPE, program.
Here’s what to know:
What is the property tax exemption?
That HOPE program — meant to keep Detroiters at risk of foreclosure in their homes — exempts qualifying homeowners from property taxes for the current year based on household income. It was previously known as the Homeowners Property Tax Assistance Program (HPTAP).
The city has so far approved more than 12,000 applications this year, according to a Friday news release. The city carried forward approved applicants from 2019 and 2020 into 2021 because of changes in state legislation last year. So approved applicants from 2019 and 2020 will be exempt from property taxes in 2021, too.
The Wayne County Treasurer’s Office in May said it would not foreclose on occupied properties this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the challenges people faced reaching government offices and waiting on federal aid, Treasurer Eric Sabree said at the time.
A survey by Quicken Loans Community Fund in 2019 found that of the 25,000 homeowners behind on paying their property taxes, 55% indicated they were unaware of the tax exemption.
Eligibility for the HOPE program is based on whether a resident owns and occupies their home as their primary residence and their household income or financial circumstances, such as medical debt. For example, the maximum income for a full exemption for a family of four is $27,248. The maximum income for a homeowner to have a quarter of their tax bill exempt is $32,488.
Most homeowners whose income is below these income guidelines are approved, the city says.
How does the property tax exemption work with other programs?
People who qualify for HOPE may also be eligible for the Wayne County Treasurer’s Pay As You Stay program (PAYS), which reduces back tax debt. People with the property tax exemption and who are enrolled in PAYS also are eligible to get their back tax debt down to zero through another program called the Detroit Tax Relief Fund.
The program, backed by a $15 million investment by the Gilbert Family Foundation, as of September had paid off the delinquent tax debt for 1,600 Detroiters, according to a news release. The goal of the effort, announced earlier this year, is to wipe away the property tax debt owed by about 20,000 residents.
Where to go if you need help
Detroiters who need help applying for the property tax exemption can make an appointment for Friday or Saturday at the Lasky Recreation Center (13200 Fenelon St.).
Homeowners can schedule an appointment or apply for the property tax exemption online at www.detroitmi.gov/HOPE or by contacting the Wayne Metro Connect Center at 313-388-9799 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 8:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. Fridays; and 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. Saturdays.
Nushrat Rahman covers issues related to economic mobility for the Detroit Free Press and BridgeDetroit as a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of The GroundTruth Project. Make a tax-deductible contribution to support her work at bit.ly/freepRFA.