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City officials say they’ve launched a last-minute effort to help owners facing foreclosure save their homes from the county’s auction.

Last week, the city mailed applications for Detroit’s property tax exemption program to owner occupants whose properties were up for auction this month, said Alvin Horhn, the deputy chief financial officer and city assessor.

While the auction ended Thursday, Horhn said he has requested that Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree not issue deeds to winning auction bidders on properties if the homeowners are granted an exemption. Horhn said the Detroit Board of Review is moving quickly to try to approve qualified homeowners.

“We are trying to extend a hand one last time,” Horhn said. “We were looking for solutions if someone slipped through.”

Sabree's staff said he will review the requests on a case-by-case basis.

Critics have argued the exemption application process has been inaccessible for years, with many unaware of the option. Michigan law allows those who meet poverty levels to lower or eliminate property tax bills. Homeowners can qualify by income or if they have had a hardship, such as a health condition, Horhn said.

Tax foreclosures were down countywide this year from 14,300 in 2016 to about 6,800 as of the beginning of the tax foreclosure auctions in September, according to Sabree’s office.

Of those 6,800 properties,788 are believed to be owner-occupied Detroit homes as of mid-August. Another 1,132 are estimated to be occupied by Detroit renters, county officials have said.

Horhn said 11 homeowners have applied as a result of last week’s mailing. It’s not clear how long the county will pull properties from successful auction bidders, but Horhn said “it’s a fairly tight window.”

Typically, it takes several weeks for the county to issue deeds to winning bidders after the auction ends.

There are about 36,000 other properties on payment plans with the county treasurer to pay tax debt, most in Detroit.

cmacdonald@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2396

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