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Tax foreclosures in Wayne County could be down this year by as much as half, after setting a record in 2015, according to a county official.

Chief Deputy Treasurer Eric Sabree said on Saturday he expects the office to take as few as 14,000 delinquent properties to the annual tax foreclosure auction this fall. In 2015, the office offered up about 28,000 foreclosures to buyers through the sale.

“The number going to the auction this year will be down significantly, but we still have a lot of work to do to make sure the number is still low two years from now,” Sabree said.

Sabree credited the decline in part to new payment plans that reduce interest rates for many homeowners from 18 percent to 6 percent. And the state has distributed nearly $54 million in federal aid to 6,200 county residents over the last two years to pay tax debt through the Step Forward Michigan program, Sabree said.

Last year’s numbers also were high because the office foreclosed on delinquent properties with small debts they had previously ignored because the office was overwhelmed. Foreclosure generally is triggered after taxes aren’t paid for three years.

Sabree said he’ll ask a Wayne County Circuit judge to officially foreclose on about 22,600 properties by the end of next week. But owners can still get their homes out of foreclosure by getting into payment plans until early June and avoid the fall auction.

Sabree said owners with tax debt should move quickly because the interest reductions will expire in June.

And Sabree said he expects the Step Forward Michigan program to reopen applications as soon as April after an influx of new money. In February, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced it was giving Michigan another $74.5 million for foreclosure prevention and other neighborhood improvement efforts, like demolitions.

Dozens of residents attended a foreclosure prevention workshop Saturday at Bethany Lutheran Church on the city’s east side.

One of the event’s organizers, Jackie Grant, said she’s seen owners knock off $2,500 from their bill with help from the interest reductions.

“It is really saving people’s homes,” said Grant, a Morningside neighborhood resident. “When you are talking about interest and fees, a lot of people get into trouble. It goes from bad to worse.”

“It gives people hope they can get out of this ugliness.”

Dawn Edwards came Saturday afternoon for help because she’s behind on her payment plan. Nearly $1,900 is due by March 31 on the east side home where she and her dad live.

“I just can’t afford it,” Edwards said. “It’s a huge stress, but I have faith I won’t lose my house.”

Over the last several months, the treasurer’s office has partnered with a number of nonprofits, neighborhood leaders and Mayor Mike Duggan’s office to reach out to delinquent owners, including mailings, personal visits and workshops.

A panel is expected to select a new Wayne County Treasurer on April 4 following the surprise resignation this month of Richard Hathaway three months into his term.

Hathaway was chosen in December to succeed Treasurer Raymond J. Wojtowicz, who retired Dec. 1, 2015 after 39 years in the job. Hathaway, formerly the county’s chief assistant prosecutor said he resigned because of “personal family matters.” His last day is scheduled to be April 8.

cmacdonald@detroitnews.com

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