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Detroiters Stand up to Tax Foreclosures

Written by Alvin Young

Faced with the possibility of displacement, Detroiters filled the Detroit City Council on Tuesday, March 24th, to demand that they pass a resolution urging the Wayne County treasurer halt tax foreclosures. As part of an effort to prevent the displacement of 100,000 residents, the Detroit People’s Platform and local partners turned in a petition with thousands of signatures calling for a moratorium on tax foreclosures of occupied homes. Properties slated for 2015 foreclosure are said to owe $256 million, an amount many say is exaggerated by property assessments based on metrics used before the city’s financial crisis.

Many believe the foreclosures to be the latest attempt to strip land wealth from Detroit’s majority African American community and push long-time residents out, clearing the way for outside “investors.” Local organizations have demanded that the state use the $251 million in unspent federal Hardest Hit funds (specifically designed to keep homeowners in their home) to pay down Detroiter’s tax debt. Until now, the federal funds have been used primarily to tear down homes. Detroiters are organizing to demand that elected officials exercise leadership and change destructive policies, rather than sit idle while 100,000 are displaced.

Living in a city with limited public services leaves many concerned about Detroit’s ability to assist people who would be left homeless by the policy. In the resolution presented to the City Council, The Detroit People’s Platform and local partners demanded that a “halt be placed on all Tax Foreclosures for one year, [that the city] reassess property values, and reassess tax debt of residents.” Uncertain of the actions to come, local organizers have called for a vigil for those facing foreclosure on March 30th and a demonstration on March 31st to stop the foreclosures. 

The foreclosure crisis serves as another reminder of the way local policies target the city’s most vulnerable. Determined to bring council members into the process, Linda Campbell of the Detroit People’s Platform stated, “It is essential that the Detroit City Council join with their constituents to hold this city together. We can’t tolerate thousands of hard working people becoming homeless.” Many Detroiters face challenging socio-economic conditions and are now confronted with legally sanctioned water shut offs, and the very possible threat of homelessness.

According to Aaron Handelsman, “Residents are left to feel like failures, and the system justifies their removal on what is often depicted as failed personal responsibility.” Many residents have reported being kicked out of federal programs geared towards assisting those facing foreclosure. Others are left to find out that their homes have been sold to investors.

“This is an outright attack on an entire culture, through mass removal of families,” declared Aaron Handelsman.

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