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Wayne Co. tax foreclosures down nearly 36%

Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News

The Wayne County treasurer expects as many as 18,000 properties will be headed to the annual tax foreclosure auction this fall, a nearly 36 percent decrease from last year.

“It’s a drop,” said Treasurer Eric Sabree. “Collections are up all over the county, including Detroit. That’s a good sign. But people are still struggling. We have to stay vigilant.”

Owners with tax debt can still enter payment plans with the treasurer until Thursday. Exact numbers won’t be available until after the deadline. The vast majority of properties are in Detroit.

In 2015, the office offered up a record 28,000 foreclosures countywide to buyers through the sale.

Of those properties headed to foreclosure this fall, 8,000 are estimated to be occupied. Half of those are renters and the rest homeowners, Sabree said.

County officials have credited the decline in part to new payment plans that reduce interest rates for many homeowners from 18 percent to 6 percent and federal aid available to homeowners through the Step Forward Michigan program.

The interest reductions will expire in June. Sabree said his office is pushing for legislation in Lansing that would extend the deals.

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

Over the last year, 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.

This month officials with Loveland Technologies visited nearly 9,000 homes believed to be occupied and surveyed about 1,800 occupants. Loveland was able to help 256 residents get on payment plans. Loveland also issued a report on the outreach effort. Of the 1,800 surveyed, 38 percent said they were unaware the property was in foreclosure.