County tells city its plan to save homes is too late

Christine MacDonald

An effort billed last week as a last chance for owner occupants to save their homes from tax foreclosure won’t happen after all.

The News reported on Thursday that in mid-October the city mailed applications for Detroit’s property tax exemption program to owner occupants whose properties were up for auction this month in hopes of finding residents who qualified for the tax break, according to Alvin Horhn, the deputy chief financial officer and city assessor.

Horhn said he was requesting Wayne County Treasurer Eric Sabree not issue deeds to winning auction bidders on properties if the homeowners are granted an exemption. The second round of the controversial auction ended Oct. 26.

But Horhn said in a statement that Sabree’s office has told him that it’s too late to stop the sales.

“I knew when we proposed this idea that it was a very long shot given the timing so close to the end of the second auction,” Horhn said in a statement. “I accept the treasurer’s decision that it was too late for this year. We look forward to continuing to work with the treasurer’s office to expand efforts to help residents get the support they need to avoid foreclosure, including poverty tax exemptions.”

Calls to two spokesmen for the Wayne County Treasurer weren’t returned Monday morning.

Critics fighting tax foreclosures have been frustrated that the treasurer’s office has dismissed last ditch efforts to save homeowners faced with losing their properties. The treasurer’s office has cited their deadlines, saying they want to be fair and consistent.

Sabree last month rejected a $200,000 foundation-funded plan that housing advocates say would have saved a potential 600 owner-occupied homes from this fall’s foreclosure auction because the deadline to get delinquent owner occupants on payment plans had passed.

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.