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Detroit Program Keeps Homeowners Facing Foreclosure Housed

The buyback plan diverts properties from Wayne County's tax foreclosure auction, keeping them in government hands until residents can repay the purchase price.
November 24, 2018, 9am PST | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Olivier Le Queinec

Allie Gross reports on a new program, Make it Home, that offers Detroit homeowners a way to hold onto their deeds. Foreclosed upon for failing to pay property taxes, many low-income homeowners face the prospect of bidding against speculators in an auction, and likely losing their homes. 

"Utilizing the Right of Refusal, a provision within Michigan's larger tax reversion law that allows governmental entities to buy foreclosed properties pre-auction, the City of Detroit, with significant funding from the Quicken Loans Community Fund, scooped up the occupied foreclosed homes — diverting them from the auction," Gross writes.

When deeds are issued, the nonprofit United Community Housing Coalition holds them until occupants repay the purchase price, which can range between $1,000 and $8,000. The money then goes into a revolving fund to buy back more homes.

While the foreclosure auction's original purpose was to "reactivate abandoned spaces and spark new ownership," it became a way for speculators and predatory landlords to snap up property without actually rejuvenating neighborhoods. Often, the homes involved stand vacant. Gross calls Make it Home "a remarkable phenomenon: bureaucrats from the public and private spheres coming together to imagine a solution to a problem that's burdened the community for decades."  

The program's initial batch of properties totaled 500, but the problem is a lot bigger. "A Wayne County Treasury spokesman said 44,000 properties are at risk of foreclosure next year — 36,000 of them in Detroit."

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Published on Tuesday, November 20, 2018 in Detroit Free Press
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