Week 5: Blight and Foreclosure – Detroit Community-Engaged Research Program

Week 5: Blight and Foreclosure

Wayne County to auction 30,000 homes in the fall; A third of them are still occupied

The above article asks questions about the effectiveness and justness of foreclosing occupied homes. Many of these homes will sell for less than their delinquent tax owed, and those that don’t sell will almost certainly become blight, costing many times that tax, up to $15,000 each. Furthermore, the record 10,000 occupied homes on this list is only such a large number because “Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz ended a long practice of avoiding foreclosure on properties with delinquencies of less than $1,700.” Most of these people have faced hardship in the past year, and more than a third are below the poverty line.

Personally, I find this plan ridiculous.

I understand the officials’ reasoning. If the taxes don’t get paid, that money has to be taken from somewhere or someone else. Furthermore, the people living in these at risk houses need to have incentive to pay, and threats are strong incentives.

Homelessness is an exorbitant threat.

It is true that the government is trying to help these people pay; “The tally is down from about 67,000 Detroit properties served with foreclosure notices last fall. That’s because 40,000 owners have agreed to payment plans and other programs offered by the treasurer.” But most of those 10,000 left are too poor to pay even the couple hundred a month for the payment plans, so what choice does the government have?

More pertinent questions are: Where will this massive amount of people go? What will they be forced to do without the protection and placement of a home? How will the destruction of decent homes effect the communities? What would be the cost differential between dealing with thousands of blighted properties vs allowing the homeowners to remain on conditional terms?

That last question I find interesting. This is an extremely large amount of people to become homeless within such a short time period, and most of their homes won’t be bought, considering the poverty and blight that they are already surrounded with. Looters will tear these houses to shreds within weeks, costing the government millions to demolish the then-useless buildings. This is a lose-lose, both financially and for the community. What I don’t understand is why officials don’t try other methods besides payment plans to regain capital from these disadvantaged citizens. What about community service? Have them pay back with social impact capital if they can’t do it monetarily, or with a combination of both. Or at least reinstate the policy of avoiding foreclosure on properties with delinquencies of less than $1,700, which would significantly cut down on the number of properties to be foreclosed.

Because, for me, what the officials are planning now resonates as wrong.

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