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Robert Day of Better Man Outreach looks over addresses to houses on Detroit's west side facing or in foreclosure with Detroit Financial Empowerment Manager Chelsea Neblett while doing door-to-door outreach with the city of Detroit and nonprofit group The Peoples Action near 7 mile and Greenfield on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, as part of a press event to let Detroiters know about resources to prevent foreclosure. (Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Detroiters behind on their property taxes can still tap into resources to bring down their tax debt and avoid foreclosure. 

Tax foreclosure is the process by which homeowners lose their property because they didn’t pay their property taxes.

Earlier this year, the Wayne County Treasurer halted some foreclosures so taxpayers, who suffered financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, had enough time to apply for relief programs. 

A court order withheld from foreclosure owner-occupied homes with delinquent taxes from 2017 to 2019 through March 2023, extending the deadline to get on payment plans or pay back taxes by another year.

Across the county, the ruling kept 3,861 homes from foreclosure this year, according to the Treasurer’s office.

But the court order does not apply to property owners with tax debt in 2016 or prior and nonowner-occupied homes, such as rentals. 

That means that since March 31 in Detroit, 3,695 properties have been foreclosed, including 401 owner-occupied and 1,421 nonowner-occupied homes.

The City of Detroit is using $2.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to go door-to-door informing residents — whose homes have either already been foreclosed or may be foreclosed next year — about available help. 

“The intent and the goal is really to be proactive and ensure that residents are aware of the various property tax foreclosure prevention resources that exist,” said Chelsea Neblett, a financial empowerment manager with the city’s department of neighborhoods. The Treasurer’s office has an updated list of properties that are likely to be foreclosed. Download it at https://www.waynecounty.com/elected/treasurer/. Taxpayers can also search for delinquent property tax information at https://pta.waynecounty.com/.

Here are some available resources for those who may face foreclosure next year: 

  • Homeowners Property Exemption (HOPE): This is a poverty tax exemption for income-eligible Detroiters that exempts them from the current year’s property taxes. For more information, go to www.detroitmi.gov/hope
  • Detroit Tax Relief Fund: This program, funded by the Gilbert Family Foundation, can bring property tax debt down to zero. It’s for those who have already been approved for the HOPE exemption and the county’s Pay As You Stay (PAYS) program, which reduces back tax debt. For more information, go to https://www.waynemetro.org/propertytax/ or call the Detroit Tax Relief Fund at 313-244-0274. 
  • Michigan Homeowner Assistance Fund (MIHAF): This statewide and federally funded program is for those hit hard financially by the pandemic. Grant dollars can be used for delinquent property taxes. To learn more, go to Michigan.gov/MIHAF or call 844-756-4423.
  • Wayne County payment plans: The Wayne County Treasurer’s Office has some payment assistance plans. For more information, go to bit.ly/WayneCountyPaymentPlans

Some Detroiters whose properties have been foreclosed may be eligible for the Make It Home program, which helps residents, including renters, living in foreclosed homes to buy their properties before auction. For more information about that program, go to uchcdetroit.org/makeithome

Those who applied for the MIHAF program before March 31 can still notify the Treasurer’s Office, with proof that they applied before that deadline, and have their property removed from the foreclosure list. Contact taxinfo@waynecounty.com. 

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.

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