How Risky Lending Hollowed Out Detroit

Over one half of Detroit's foreclosed homes are blighted or abandoned. Buyers who purchased the homes for as little as $1 have little incentive to keep them in good shape—or pay taxes.
July 6, 2015, 1pm PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Justin Hollander

While Detroit has enjoyed sporadic rejuvenation, it continues to lose housing stock. Risky past lending is a key culprit. "The toll is massive: 56 percent of mortgage foreclosures are now blighted or abandoned. Of those 36,400 homes, at least 13,000 are slated for demolition at a projected cost of $195 million, The News found. The city lost another $300 million in tax payments from foreclosed homes that Wayne County seized for nonpayment of taxes."

Pre-2008, "Detroit had one of the highest rates of subprime lending in the country: 68 percent of all city mortgages in 2005, compared to 27 percent statewide and 24 percent nationwide, according to federal records."

While blight is also a function of faltering city services, the immense devaluation of foreclosed properties makes it easier for them to fall into a decrepit state. "Few efforts were made to hold institutions accountable for damage after those lenders blanketed city residents with risky loans, and then sold homes for as little as $1 after they were foreclosed on."

The lending industry claims no responsibility for what buyers do with their one-dollar homes. Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert, who co-chairs the Detroit Blight Removal Task Force, concurred. "[Gilbert] blamed high taxes and other factors. 'Existing blight causes other blight. Poor city services. All of it together.'"

It should be noted that, "All told, 52 percent of Quicken mortgages that ended in foreclosure from 2005-2014 are now blighted."

The article includes interesting slider visuals comparing blighted houses with their former inhabited selves.

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Published on Thursday, June 25, 2015 in The Detroit News
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